Blackhawks

Struggling Blackhawks keep stumbling with 4-2 loss to Stars at the UC

It was a simple play and an innocent mistake that should have been inconsequential but turned into a disaster for Duncan Keith. That’s how bad the Blackhawks are running thiese days.

In the waning seconds of the second period in a tie-game against the Dallas Stars, Keith had the puck at the blue line, wheeled around and tried to backhand a pass to Vinnie Hinostroza speeding into the offensive zone. Instead, the puck was blocked and retrieved by Stars defenseman John Klingberg with 11 seconds left. Klingberg passed to Tyler Pitlick, who blasted a slap shot past Anton Forsberg for a tie-breaking, back-breaking goal with 4.5 seconds left in the period.

That’s all it took to make the difference in the Hawks’ 4-2 loss to the Stars before 21,422 at the United Center on Thursday night that kept the Hawks slumping to the finish line — their fourth consecutive loss; their eighth loss in 10 games and their sixth consecutive loss at home.

“Tough play,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook, who assisted on both the Hawks’ goals — by Jonathan Toews in the first period and Artem Anisimov in the second. “But that’s not the only one. I think we can all be better in situations like that — little situations. We all have to look at ourselves and be better in big moments, little moments …”

Artem Anisimov celebrates his tying goal in the Hawks' game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at the United Center. (David Banks/AP)

The Hawks (24-22-8) fell eight points behind the Minnesota wild for the eighth and final playoff spot, with three other teams ahead of them with 24 games left in the regular season.

“It’s frustrating,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Losing six in a row at home — it’s embarrassing. Not the way we expected to be.”

“It’s tough, but we put ourselves in this spot. We’ve got to get out of it,” Seabrook said. “We’ve got to try and work and dig to create our bounces and our chances and some luck and things start changing and turning and [if we] start feeling good about ourselves, maybe something will happen.”

It remains to be seen if there’s anything the Hawks can do to snap out of it. In desperate need of a rally following the all-star break, they’ve generally played well enough to win, but still find a way to lose — a huge turnaround from their glory days. When Toews scored on a mini-breakway after taking a long bank pass from Seabrook for a 1-0 lead at 9:07 of the first period, it marked the fourth consecutive game the Hawks have scored first — and they’ve lost all four games. In fact, the Hawks have scored first in eight of their last nine games but are 2-5-2 in that stretch.

“It’s definitely something to look at,” Murphy said. “That’s big to score first in a game and usually stats go your way after that. But for whatever reason we’re not bearing down. You look at [the Stars]. They get the lead and they do the right things to hold on to it — whether it’s taking care of the puck or blocking shots or battling down low. To be a better team, we have to be able to do that.”

The Stars scored twice in a 59-second span of the second period to go from down 1-0 to ahead 2-1. Tyler Seguin scored on a tap-in on a 2-on-1 after a turnover by Anthony Duclair in the offensive zone. Stephen Johns scored 59 seconds later, beating a screened Anton Forsberg  with a shot from the point to give the Stars a 2-1 lead at 6:43 of the second period.

Anisimov tied it 2-2 at 12:48 on a rebound after Seabrook’s shot caromed off the back board. But Pitick beat the clock, and the Hawks were unable to respond in the third period — getting offensive opportunities but only six shots on goal. Seguin’s empty-net goal at 19:02 all but ended it.

The Hawks play the Wild on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

“I think as time goes along here, we’ve got to start getting some wins,” Seabrook said. “We’re trying to keep up in the West and we just keep digging ourselves a bigger hole. We’ve got to win. We start rolling and who knows? That’s our mind-set right now. We’ve got to come prepared for Minny and try and get a win.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com