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Blackhawks stumble out of break in loss to Hurricanes

The Blackhawks went into the NHL-mandated Christmas break on a sour note, a 4-0 loss at league-leading Dallas putting a damper on an otherwise stellar first few weeks of December.

They came out of it even worse, falling 2-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, the seventh-place team in the Metropolitan Division, on Sunday night. Only a Brent Seabrook goal with 3.6 seconds left prevented them from enduring their second straight shutout loss on either side of the four-day break. It was their first goal in a full week.

Afterward, the Hawks were singing a familiar refrain — they were getting too cute with the puck, looking for the highlight-reel goal instead of the ugly one.

“We’ve got to get greasier goals,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s how you score in our league. You’ve got to take it to the net. I counted about six chances that were either empty nets or potential empty nets [on which] we either misfired, or didn’t bear down, or weren’t hungry enough.”

Added Duncan Keith: “We were a little bit guilty of trying to be too pretty with the puck. Instead of just keeping it simple, throw it at the net and have one guy there.”

That’s what happened on Seabrook’s goal in the dying seconds — a harmless flick of the puck snuck through Eddie Lack (35 saves) as Andrew Shaw crashed the net. But it was far too little, too late. By that point, a last-minute goal by Justin Faulk in the second period had deflated the Hawks, and Victor Rask’s shot off a faceoff win early in the third had all but sealed their fate.

The Hawks had little energy in the first two periods — more than 15 minutes into the game, nobody on any of the top three lines or the top two defensive pairings had a single shot on goal — and had few sustained shifts in the offensive zone. There was little traffic in front of Lack, few second-chance opportunities, and far too many lost puck battles.

They finally turned it up offensively after falling behind 2-0, but still couldn’t solve Lack. Their best chance came with about three minutes left, when Seabrook had a yawning net, but couldn’t get his stick on it.

“Everyone was well rested, so that should be to our advantage,” Marian Hossa said. “Obviously, we didn’t take advantage. This game should have played [out] a little different.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus