Blackhawks unable to match Kings’ desperation in eighth straight loss

The Kings, fueled by the adrenaline created by a tight playoff race, sucked the life out of the Hawks in a 5-2 win Tuesday.

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The Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-2 on Tuesday at the United Center.

The Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-2 on Tuesday at the United Center.

Paul Beaty/AP

Shortly after beating the Blackhawks 5-2 on Tuesday, a number of Kings players and coaches huddled around a TV outside the United Center visitors’ locker room to watch a pivotal late game between the Golden Knights and Canucks.

That’s what the playoff race engenders: a feeling that every game, every night, is crucial because it just might be. That’s a feeling the Blackhawks wish was coursing through their own hearts and brains right now.

Instead, the Hawks are trudging through the most irrelevant final month of a season the organization has endured in many years.

“That was a desperate hockey team that needs the points, and we got outworked at times,” interim coach Derek King said.

The Kings entered the day having lost three straight, slipping into the playoff bubble with the Knights bearing down. Kings coach Todd McLellan, hoping to save his rebuilt team’s surprising season, demonstrated the urgency with his pregame comments.

“We’ve given up 26 goals in our last seven games,” McLellan said. “If we’re going to get where we all want to go, that can’t continue. It has to change. [It] may sound strange because we’ve been chasing offense for years in our organization, but right now we need trusting players to play situations the way they know how.”

The Kings did just that, sucking the life out of the Hawks with an impenetrable first 15 minutes that earned them a 2-0 lead and a 13-1 shots-on-goal advantage.

The Hawks’ only moment of brief hope, sparked after Taylor Raddysh cut the deficit in half during the second period, was squashed by a Kings goal 33 seconds later.

“Mentally, we’re drained,” King said. “Physically, the bodies are drained. You throw on [an eight-game] losing streak like that, that doesn’t help, either. Trust me, there are some miserable guys in there. They know where we’re at. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of competing to get out of this.”

Regula riding high

Alec Regula’s incredible goal Saturday with the IceHogs was almost as remarkable because of who he is — a 6-foot-4-inch, 218-pound defenseman — more than how he did it. 

The 21-year-old held off a Tucson forward while cutting horizontally across the neutral zone, then turned on the burners, sliced through the caught-off-guard defense and beat the goalie with a backhand shot.

“I saw an opening and just made a move and went in,” Regula said Tuesday. “I was lucky to get it to go in there, [but] I have that kind of offense in my game. I’ve had a lot of chances this year to score, and I haven’t been scoring as much as I’d like. To get a couple of goals this past weekend felt really good. Now I feel really happy with how I’ve been playing.”

Regula was rewarded for the highlight-reel play and his general strong play in the AHL of late — filling in for Ian Mitchell, who is out with a knee injury — with an NHL call-up. 

“I feel I have that [NHL] ability,” he said. “It’s about having that confidence and believing in myself. I don’t think I’m going to be trying to make moves like that right off the bat, but [I’m working on] holding onto the puck a little bit longer, skating, getting a little bit more comfortable and believing in myself. I think there is a time where I’ll be able to make plays like that in the NHL.”

He was rudely awakened Tuesday, however, when he left Trevor Moore wide open at the back post for the Kings’ opening goal.

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