After frantic third-period rally, Blackhawks lose to Leafs 7-6 in OT
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Fasten your seat belts. It looks like it’s going to be this kind of season for the Blackhawks.
After starting the season with two gritty overtime victories on the road, the Hawks came home Sunday and parlayed the emotion from a tribute to Stan Mikita into a roaring start against the Maple Leafs. But they found themselves in a taffy pull in the second period and in a pinball game in the third, with one of the wildest finishes to regulation Hawks fans have seen.
Ultimately, it went for naught because the up-and-coming Maple Leafs, with a ton of youth, speed and Hawks-like resilience, responded to every Hawks response to win 7-6 in overtime before 21,812 at the United Center.
Morgan Rielly’s goal 19 seconds into overtime — on a wrist shot from the right circle that trickled between goalie Cam Ward’s pads — won it for the Maple Leafs, but only after a frenetic third period in which the teams combined for five goals, including three in a 55-second span in the last 1:30 of regulation.
Patrick Kane twice scored the tying goal in the final flurry. He tied the score 5-5 with 1:24 left in regulation before Auston Matthews — left wide-open in the slot — gave the Maple Leafs a 6-5 lead 22 seconds later. But Kane tied it again 6-6 with a slap shot with 29 seconds left in regulation.
‘‘I’m sure it’s a nightmare game for the coaches, with a lot of goals scored and a lot of goals against,’’ said Kane, who has four goals in the Hawks’ first three games. ‘‘Fun game to play in if you’re an offensive player. But we can definitely do some better things defensively and make sure we’re kind of sound in that end.’’
There was plenty for the Hawks (2-0-1) to celebrate — and to lament. Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat got the Hawks off to a fast start. Toews scored his fifth goal of the season on a redirected shot in front of the net at the nine-minute mark of the first period before DeBrincat scored on a virtual tap-in off a pretty tic-tac-toe play, Duncan Keith-to-Dominik Kahun-to DeBrincat at 12:02.
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed with Kane that the Hawks fed off the emotion from the pregame ceremony honoring Mikita.
‘‘We did have an amazing start to the game,’’ Quenneville said. “We had the puck, and we made plays. We had everything going our way. We hadn’t seen anything like that in our team over the last year. We had stretches in the first two games, but that was an excellent beginning. We’ll give them some credit for reflection on Stan.’’
John Hayden scored a tying goal in the second period off a shot from 19-year-old defenseman Henri Jokiharju, and Brandon Manning scored on a shot from the left point that tied the score 4-4 early in the third.
But Matthews, John Tavares, Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner broke down the Hawks’ defense too often. Tavares had a hat trick, including a magnificent goal in the third period in which he stopped a puck in midair and fired a wrist shot past Ward to give the Maple Leafs a 5-4 lead.
‘‘I don’t know; this game’s a blur right now,’’ Keith said when asked what improvements need to be made. ‘‘I’d have to look back. You’re better off asking the coaches. I like to [replay] the games, too, but right now I just kind of try to catch your breath.’’
Kane was ready to look at the bright side: The Hawks didn’t give up.
‘‘We could have been better defensively,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think you’ve got to be really happy with the way we battled tonight. Down 4-3, 5-4, 6-5, came back every time and tied it up. Pretty impressive from this group.’’