The Blackhawks returned to the United Center to square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night. Coming home off their first regulation win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cam Ward started in net for the first time since Corey Crawford’s return.
The Hawks had a rough start to the first period, which inevitably resulted in an early Lighting goal by Nikita Kucherov. Left uncovered, Kucherov was able to pick up the puck, let loose from a board battle, and easily score.
However, the second half of the period picked up quickly for the Hawks. Pretty soon, rookie Alex Fortin tied up the game on his first NHL career goal. Fortin had the foresight to start heading into the offensive zone early, which allowed him to receive a pass from Jan Rutta. From there, Fortin had a clear breakaway for his first goal.
After opening up the home team scoring, the Hawks carried a renewed energy and came back for the second half of the period. After Schmaltz drew a penalty on Kucherov, the Hawks played one of their best power plays of the season so far. Most noticeably, the Hawks were incredibly speedy, something that they’ve been struggling with on the power play.
Kane had multiple shots on goal that were only stopped by great goaltending by Louis Domingue. However, seeing Kane capitalize on speed from Schmaltz and DeBrincat was a glimmer of hope that perhaps the Hawks’ power play problems can be fixed.
Unfortunately, the energy from the first didn’t carry over to the second. The Hawks steadily unraveled throughout the period, which allowed for the Lightning to completely dominate the ice and use it to their every advantage. The Hawks had nearly nonexistent possession, allowing 33 shots in the second alone, which tied the record for most shots allowed in a single period.
That said, it’s no surprise that the Lightning were able to turn to regain the lead, and then some. While the Blackhawks took four unnecessary penalties, the Lightning were able to score a total of three times this period, putting them in the lead at 4-1.
Ward made incredible saves and did very well considering the circumstances. It’s important to consider that even if Crawford had been in net, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The Hawks’ skaters allowed too many opportunities for the Lightning to take over.
Ward didn’t stand a chance.
Returning in the third period, the Blackhawks looked a little bit better but it wasn’t enough. Halfway through the period, Victor Hedman was able to get a goal off the crossbar, bringing it to 5-1 Tampa.
The Hawks went to another power play, which wasn’t terrible but didn’t have the same energy as the previous. While they maintained possession in the offensive zone, there was simply not enough movement to make anything happen.
Otherwise, the Hawks had a few good chances throughout the period. Frustratingly, the bounces just weren’t there and the Hawks were unable to score for most of the period. But, with five minutes left on the clock, David Kampf scored to make it 5-2.
With an extra attacker less than two minutes later, Nick Schmaltz took a shot for a controversial goal that was originally called off. However, after video review, it was determined a good goal: Schmaltz’s first of the season.
Despite a rush of desperate energy toward the tail end of the game, Ryan Callahan got an empty net goal, sealing the Hawks’ fate at a 6-3 loss.
The Blackhawks will play again when they host the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday evening.
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