Blackhawks blow four-goal lead, suffer embarrassing loss to Sabres
The Hawks lost 6-5 on Monday after blowing a 4-0 lead against the perennial punching-bag Sabres — two days after blowing a 3-0 lead in a loss to the Golden Knights.
In a vacuum, the Blackhawks’ 6-5 loss Monday to the Sabres was their worst defeat in years.
They blew a 4-0 lead at home against a perennial NHL punching bag, ultimately losing with 12 seconds left in regulation on a broken-stick shot that caromed off the end boards, off goalie Kevin Lankinen’s pad and across the goal line.
Considering the utter lack of stakes, it probably wasn’t actually the Hawks’ worst loss in years. But that should take nothing away from the embarrassment of their effort in the last two periods.
Their defensive coverage was awful, leaving Sabres attackers wide-open all over the zone on every shift. Their mental fortitude was nonexistent, as they even squandered a 5-4 lead they had taken on a power-play goal by Alex DeBrincat after throwing away the original four-goal cushion. And Lankinen cast more serious doubt on whether he can be a reliable goalie for the team moving forward.
The final stats tell the story: The Sabres led 68-38 in shot attempts, 37-21 in shots on goal and 29-13 in scoring chances.
Interim coach Derek King was as angry as he has been all season.
‘‘We stopped playing the game the right way,’’ King said. ‘‘We just decided upon ourselves to go and do what they wanted to do. Didn’t do anything we asked them to do.
‘‘I’m very surprised, disappointed. And they should be disappointed. We’ll find out come next game how disappointed they really are about losing a game like that.’’
Toews nears milestone
The Hawks’ next game — Thursday against the Panthers — will be the 1,000th of captain Jonathan Toews’ career, and the anticipatory buzz the next few days likely will drown out the bitterness from the loss Monday.
Considering the health issues Toews has overcome in recent years, it will be a significant accomplishment. He’ll be the 358th player in NHL history to achieve the milestone and the eighth to play 1,000 games with the Hawks.
Since returning from a concussion in early March, Toews has looked more like himself and finally has gotten the production to show for it. He scored in the first period against the Sabres for his sixth goal in his last 10 games and 10th point in his last 13.
But he, too, struggled to feel anything but frustration, given the way the rest of the game played out.
‘‘What we’re not doing right is right there in front of us, so it’s not really a confidence thing,’’ Toews said. ‘‘[We’re not] keeping the game simple and identifying little ways that we can make things hard for them and not give them free offense. We just let them walk in everywhere, just making plays through us, [getting] no sticks on pucks and go down the list.’’
Forward Tyler Johnson was activated from injured reserve and played against the Sabres after recovering from his latest concussion. Defenseman Connor Murphy, although still on long-term injured reserve, might be nearing a return from his concussion, too.
De Haan streak over
Defenseman Calvin de Haan entered the game a month away from finishing a fifth consecutive season with exactly one goal, but that streak is now dead.
After forward Taylor Raddysh executed a clever shot-fake and pass, de Haan scored into a wide-open net in the first period for his second goal in 61 games this season.