Scott Darling played just 78 seconds in Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals, thrust into action when Corey Crawford unexpectedly left the ice for an equipment malfunction. And Darling was promptly greeted by a breakaway by one of the league’s greatest shootout artists, T.J. Oshie.
Darling, who had just a TV timeout to loosen up for his stint in net, got down and kicked out his left leg, deflecting Oshie’s offering wide. That’s just the way the goaltending has gone for the Blackhawks this season.
On Friday night, though, little else went well.
Marian Hossa scored with 22.3 seconds left in regulation to salvage a point, but the Hawks’ seven-game win streak came to an end with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. Marcus Johansson scored the winner at 2:20 of the extra session after Vinnie Hinostroza fell over a fallen Oshie to spring an odd-man break. The Hawks are still 8-0-2 in their last 10.
The Hawks built their win streak on brilliant goaltending and timely goals. But you can’t claw your way to a comeback victory every night.
“You can’t continue to rely on scoring goals late in the game like that,” Jonathan Toews said. “We just have to focus on trying to play ahead of a team like that.”
Hossa’s equalizer eased the pain a bit, but it was an off night for the Hawks. The top line of Nick Schmaltz, Toews and Patrick Kane mustered a mere one shot attempt —not even one on goal — through the first two-plus periods before Schmaltz was replaced by Ryan Hartman, who added some punch to the line. Rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling struggled throughout the game and was briefly benched in the second period, and even Duncan Keith had a rare off night, twice bobbling and losing the puck at the blue line on power plays.
The Hawks were frustrated by the Capitals’ defensive style throughout the game.
“We have to be better because those guys play extremely well in the neutral zone, they’re waiting for you,” Hossa said. “We tried to beat them individually and they’re just waiting for turnovers. Sometimes we have to play the ugly hockey and just chip and support.”
The Hawks flipped the script a bit in the first period. Instead of being badly outshot but somehow emerging with a lead, they outshot the Capitals 13-8 but trailed 2-1 thanks to a pair of Jay Beagle goals. Beagle got the Capitals on the board at 6:17 with a shorthanded goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Oshie. The Hawks got it right back on the same power play, however, as Brian Campbell’s shot from the point made it past Braden Holtby (32 saves).
Holtby —who was supplanted as Canada’s No. 2 goalie by Crawford at the World Cup —was terrific all night. In the first period, he stopped Marcus Kruger (filling in admirably on the second line in place of the injured Artem Anisimov) on a 2-on-1 and Hossa on the follow-up, and after Jordin Tootoo couldn’t sweep the puck into an open net, Beagle beat Crawford on a wrap-around to make it 2-1 Washington. It was only the 13th 5-on-5 goal the Hawks have allowed through 15 games.
Holtby made big stops on Kruger, Hossa and Hartman in the second period, then stoned Artemi Panarin early in the third. But Hossa finally broke through in the waning seconds, scoring off a Panarin shot attempt with Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker. It was Hossa’s seventh goal in his last eight games, since being moved to the second line with Panarin.
So the Hawks’ win streak came to an end, but their point streak was extended to 10. With the 12-1-1 Montreal Canadiens in town on Sunday, they know they’ll have to do more — and do it sooner —to push it to 11.
“We’ve been in this stretch for a while now, and we’ve been extremely fortunate a lot of nights,” Joel Quenneville said. “We can be better in ways, but we’ll take it.”