Blackhawks suffer OT loss, drop more precious points
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter March 18, 2014 9:22PM
Updated: March 18, 2014 11:22PM
PHILADELPHIA — After yet another crucial point — they’re all crucial points at this crucial point of the season — slipped through their fingers, with Claude Giroux scoring with 4.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Flyers a tense 3-2 victory on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks didn’t have much time to stew. They made the quick six-mile drive from Wells Fargo Center to the airport, hopped a charter flight back to Chicago and tried to rest up as much as they could for their latest super showdown, a home game against the league-leading St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
The good news: The adrenaline and intensity of their biggest rivalry should offset any fatigue they feel from another set of back-to-backs. The bad news: The Flyers outworked, outmuscled and outchanced the Hawks. And it only gets harder.
“If we thought the game tonight was tough and physical, it’s going to be a whole other story [Wednesday] night,” a frustrated Jonathan Toews said.
By salvaging a point against Philadelphia — the Flyers hit five posts, had a goal disallowed in the third period, and forced Antti Raanta to make 34 saves — the Hawks moved into a tie with the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division. But Giroux’s stunning goal (the Hawks had a faceoff in the Flyers zone with less than 10 seconds left) prevented the Hawks from taking second place outright. It’s a familiar result. Twenty Hawks games have gone past 60 minutes this season, and the Hawks have gotten two points out of just five of them — all in shootouts.
As a result, the Hawks (and Avalanche) find themselves eight points behind the Blues with just 13 games left in the regular season. And St. Louis has a game in hand, too.
“We could have used a few of those points,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Could have put us in a better spot.”
Duncan Keith insisted that first place was still attainable, saying there were plenty of points still to be won. Toews said the Hawks weren’t even thinking about that, pointing to Wednesday’s game against a Blues team that has won all three meetings with the Hawks so far and saying, “One thing at a time.”
But Quenneville looked at it more realistically.
“Maybe we can chip away and see how it goes, but right now it doesn’t look so hot,” he said.
It has to start with a regulation win on Wednesday — a win that would at least make it a race, and at least give the Hawks some confidence against a team that, in Quenneville’s words, has had their number. But to do that, it’ll take a significantly better effort than Tuesday’s against Philadelphia. The Hawks pounced on former teammate Ray Emery early, with Andrew Shaw and Keith scoring in the first four minutes (putting Emery’s total at eight goals allowed in 45 minutes against the Hawks this season up to that point).
But a fluky goal by Scott Hartnell, a momentum-sapping power play by the Hawks, and another goal by Hartnell made a game of it, setting the stage for yet another tense, down-to-the-wire finish between these two teams.
“It just comes down to the way we’re playing,” Toews said. “I mean, that team played physical. They skated, they won battles, they won draws, they did all the little things they need to do to win the game. So if you ask me, they deserved to win it and we didn’t. Antti played great, we had a horseshoe you-know-where some moments when the puck didn’t end up in our net, and we didn’t get anywhere close to [Emery] after the first 10 minutes of the game. So it’s frustrating.”
The Hawks are now 4-5 since the Olympic break, and have lost three of four games. That said, they’ve shown a knack for rising to the occasion against the league’s best. But while that might be good enough to give the Blues a fair fight on Wednesday, it might not be enough to give them a fair fight in what’s becoming an increasingly lopsided race for first.
“Obviously, it’ll be a huge game for us,” Quenneville said. “It’s exciting for us to get to play these guys. I see our team responding and being excited about that game.”