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Jeremy Colliton’s frustration shows after Blackhawks fall 6-5 to Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Coming off a blowout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton was looking forward to learning a little bit more about his team Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

“You’re always looking for a response,” he said.

But after a 6-5 loss to the Jets at Bell MTS Place in which the Hawks gave up early goals in each period, an irked Colliton clearly didn’t like what he saw. The Hawks allowed two goals in the first 3:52 of the game, two goals in the first 1:46 of the second period and a power-play goal in the first 1:18 of the third.

“We need to get out of our own way,” Colliton said. “When we get out of our own way we’ll be all right. Until then, we’re going to struggle.”

Blackhawks' Marcus Kruger (16) and Andreas Martinsen (29) celebrate Kruger's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the first period Thursday night. |John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP

The Hawks (9-12-5) dropped 3-6-2 since Colliton replaced Joel Quenneville as coach. And even though it’s only 11 games, Colliton’s patience is wearing thin and his frustration was evident as his team continues to fall behind early and struggle defensively. The Hawks have allowed 26 goals in their last five games.

“Well, we scored five goals on the road against one of the best teams out there,” Colliton said when asked about his frustration. “We need to win that.”

The poor starts are a problem that continues to mystify the Hawks. “Can’t explain it,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Teams come out ready. We just have to be better. There’s nothing more to be said than that. Be better. Just be better.”

Colliton already is miffed at his team’s inconsistency.

“I thought defensive zone coverage was much better,” he said. “And then we had trouble off the rush. We’ve got to put it together. It’s tough to win until we sort it out. There needs to be some urgency there if there hasn’t been already. It’s been long enough now.”

Asked if the team needed more games or more practice to straighten things out, he said neither. “I think we’ve had enough games. We’ve had enough practices,” he said. “It’s time.”

After falling behind 1-0 at 0:54, 0:29, 5:48 and 2:10 — and getting outscored 11-1 in the first period overall in their previous four games — the Hawks put an emphasis on getting off to a good start. But Jets star Patrik Laine scored 1:43 into the game. After Marcus Kruger tied it at 3:03, Nikolaj Ehlers scored 49 seconds later to give the Jets a 2-1 lead. John Hayden tied it at 8:10, but Ehlers and Jacob Trouba scored in the first 1:46 of the second period to give the Jets (14-8-2) a 4-2 lead they would not lose.

“We’re working at different things defensively and just kind of got to trust the process right now,” said Patrick Kane, who was on the ice for five goals against and was a minus-4. “I know myself, I’ve got to be better, whether it’s defensively, coming back to our end — whatever it maybe. Work on that part of the game and hopefully after awhile we can start seeing some results.”

Colliton agrees it’s up to the players to find it within themselves to turn it around. “But I think we’ve got to tell the truth to the team and then they need to respond,” he said.

Is it tough for him as a new coach to crack the whip?

“I’m not new anymore,” Colliton said sharply. “I’ve been around long enough. It’s time to react.”

Does he think the team got the message?

“I don’t know,” Colliton said. “We’ll see next game.”