Blackhawks lose to Avalanche again after furious rally falls short

Four goals on 23 shots on goal in the third period weren’t enough for the Hawks to avoid a 6-4 loss and the Avalanche’s season-series sweep.

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The Avalanche held off the Blackhawks in the third period for a 6-4 win Friday.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Blackhawks put on three admirable performances against the Avalanche this month.

They lost all three games.

A furious comeback Friday — they unleashed 23 shots and had four goals in the third period — fell just short in a 6-4 loss, and the Hawks squandered their last chance to avoid a season sweep against arguably the NHL’s best team.

“We’ve played some pretty good teams [this month],” Brandon Hagel said. “We’ve got to find a way to win. Nobody wants to just keep losing and say, ‘Oh, we played well, we played well.’

‘‘We still want to be in that playoff race, and we’re not too far behind. We need to string some games together, and these are the games we need to win.”

After nearly winning in regulation before being undone by Cale Makar’s wondrous overtime winner Jan. 4, then maintaining a stout defense in a near-impossible venue in their 2-0 loss Monday, the Hawks displayed a whole new response against the Avalanche’s usual dominance.

After falling behind 3-0 early in the third period, the Hawks narrowed the deficit to one three times — thanks to two goals from a vintage-looking Patrick Kane and two more from Hagel — only to have the Avalanche answer back each time.

“What [Colorado] wants is to create turnovers and go straight up, and they did that on us in the second period,” defenseman Erik Gustafsson said.

“At the start of the third, we just said we’ve got to dump it in and go get it. And we did that. We pinched a lot with the ‘D’ and had a high third guy, and we’ve got to keep going like that.”

With 17,992 on their feet in the final minute, Hagel had three golden chances to complete his hat trick, likely force overtime and blow the roof off the arena, but Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz stood tall.

All told, it was still one of the Hawks’ best offensive performances of the season. They had 65 shots, 43 on goal.

“These guys have to buy into [our approach] every night,” interim coach Derek King said. “Some nights it’s on and off, on and off. But, for the most part, I really do like their compete [level]. The biggest thing for us is we’re not quitting. Three months ago, two quick goals [against us] like that, their shoulders would’ve been down. But they stuck with it.”

Khaira closer

Hawks forward Jujhar Khaira, out since Jan. 18 with a lower-back injury, returned to practice during the morning skate, but he’s not quite ready to play.

“There’s no point in rushing it,” King said. “[If he] comes in the lineup, plays two shifts, gets hit or gives a hit, then he’s out, we’re short-handed. So we’ll make sure he gets a couple of good, solid practices here, then we’ll look at it again.”

Defenseman Riley Stillman, meanwhile, might miss another two to three weeks with his left-shoulder injury.

Wednesday meeting

The three most important people in the Hawks’ leadership structure — chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and business president Jaime Faulkner — will speak to the “greater vision of the organization moving forward” at a “townhall-style event” at the United Center on Wednesday before the Hawks’ game against the Wild.

The Wirtzes will be making their first public comments since the sexual-assault-scandal investigation ended in October.

Faulkner will make her first public comments since speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times in December 2020, shortly before her hiring.

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