EDMONTON, Alberta — Patrick Kane returned after a one-game absence because of an illness, but the Blackhawks didn’t respond any better with their star forward than without him.
Despite 40 shots on goal, the Hawks couldn’t solve backup goalie Mikko Koskinen in a 4-0 loss to the Oilers on Thursday at Rogers Place.
Coach Joel Quenneville, in fact, seemed particularly irked by the familiar pattern in back-to-back losses to the Canucks (on Wednesday) and Oilers — a strong start negated by a weak finish.
“We had an excellent first period, and the first shift of the second, all of a sudden we give up a funny puck in the neutral zone, and it’s in our net,” Quenneville said. “And they get some excitement off it.
“We had short-handed, odd-man situations and didn’t capitalize. The goalie was getting confidence as the game progressed. He played well. But we didn’t make it hard enough on him.”
The Hawks controlled play and outshot the Oilers 15-7 in the first period but settled for a scoreless tie thanks to some big saves by Cam Ward on point-blank opportunities. But Drake Caggiula scored from in close just 18 seconds into the second period, and Jason Garrison scored on a slap shot with 36 seconds to play in the period to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead.
In between those goals, the Hawks had three golden short-handed opportunities — including a Jonathan Toews breakaway — but came up empty.
“I don’t know if the frustration level is high,” Toews said. “Last night in Vancouver was pretty similar to tonight where we start pressing and making mistakes, and pucks start going in against us.
“We always want to improve, no matter what. But I think we’re getting lots of shots on net, lots of chances, and I think our second [period] was pretty strong. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t find a way to get the upper hand.”
The Hawks were outshooting the Oilers 40-22 midway through the third period. But Quenneville was unimpressed.
“Some are just token [shots], where there’s not traffic, and it was, like, OK,” Quenneville said. “But don’t be misled. That was not good enough.”
Forward Nick Schmaltz, a minus-4 in his last three games, was a surprising healthy scratch.
“Performance-based, expectations,” Quenneville said. “I just think we need him to be an important player for us.”
Kane didn’t have his usual spark but gutted it out and still had six shots on goal in 18:57 of ice time.
Toews rued his missed opportunity with the short-handed breakaway.
“One of those you want back instantly when it doesn’t go in,” Toews said. “Just trying to get him to bite on a shot or a fake shot, get him moving, and usually when you come in with speed, it’s tough to stop for a goaltender. Just didn’t put the puck in the right area. Didn’t miss it by much, though.”