Blackhawks’ too-many-men gaffe seals another loss to Flyers
The Hawks have been called for four too-many-men penalties in their last two games, including one in a critical situation in the final minutes of their 4-3 loss Saturday.
PHILADELPHIA — Blackhawks interim coach Derek King only could drop and shake his head.
Sure enough, he could count the players on the ice. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. They had crossed the blue line with 1:30 left with Dominik Kubalik on left wing, Dylan Strome and Brandon Hagel in the middle, Patrick Kane on right wing, Alex DeBrincat trailing the puck and Seth and Caleb Jones back on defense.
Unbelievably, it was the Hawks’ fourth penalty for too many men on the ice in their last two games. The inexplicable gaffe doomed their last-gasp push in a 4-3 loss Saturday to the Flyers.
‘‘That’s on me,’’ King said later. ‘‘I’ve got to do a better job on the bench making sure these guys know exactly who’s up. It’s my responsibility.
‘‘There is a little bit of anxiousness where we’re trying to do the right things . . . and we’re jumping a little too early. We want to get in there and try to be that guy who maybe gets the goal. That’s definitely on me, and I’ll clean it up.’’
Three goals in the second period — two from Strome and one from DeBrincat — gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead entering the third. They had played well up to that point, overcoming a slow start and watching the first line of Strome, Kane and Kubalik take over.
But the final period careened off the rails. Seth Jones and Jonathan Toews miscommunicated on the Flyers’ tying goal, leaving Derick Brassard wide-open, before a shot by Cam Atkinson through high screens fooled Hawks goalie Kevin Lankinen and gave the Flyers the lead for good.
And the final score notwithstanding, what started as a physical, emotional tilt — King described it as like ‘‘an old ’80s game at the old Spectrum’’ — devolved into several 10-man scrums around the Flyers’ net. A cheap-shot hit by the Hawks’ Kirby Dach that injured Kevin Connauton in the third period well might earn him some supplementary discipline from the NHL.
‘‘It’s a tough way to lose,’’ Strome said. ‘‘When you have a lead going to the third, you’ve got to play a bit better than we did. Obviously, [we] can’t take that penalty late in the game. . . . That one sucks. I feel like we played pretty good and probably deserve a bit better than that.’’
Lankinen continues to be plagued by soft-ish goals. He’s now 3-6-4 with an .885 save percentage this season, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in a goaltending future without Marc-Andre Fleury.
There was also a historical oddity involved. The Hawks now have lost 16 consecutive regular-season games in Philadelphia, with their last victory coming in 1996.
It was that too-many-men penalty, however, that overshadowed everything else. The Hawks now have nine bench minors this season, tied with the Devils for the most in the league. Although not all nine are for too many men, the last four definitely have been.
Through 58 minutes, if someone had squinted hard enough, they might have been able to write off the loss as an entertaining, well-fought, excusable defeat — that is, if they ignored the fact the Flyers entered the game with only three victories in their last 24 games. But playing with seven guys is inexcusable.
‘‘I don’t know [how it happened], to be honest,’’ Seth Jones said. ‘‘We took two last game [Thursday against the Oilers], two tonight. That should be good for the whole season — in two games. We need better communication.’’
Added Strome: ‘‘It’s not one guy; it’s everyone. You’ve got to be aware of who you’re taking on the ice. If your guy comes off, you’ve got to go on. And if he doesn’t come off, you’ve got to be aware that maybe it looked like he was coming off and he didn’t come off.’’