Two periods, two very different teams.
Just as they did in their 3-2 shootout win over Carolina Wednesday, the Blackhawks had to wait until the second period to get their first goal of the game and they fought hard to overcome an early deficit. But unlike that victory, Chicago’s opponent had a counter-attack as the Hawks took the 5-3 regulation loss to Columbus.
“I don’t think we had a good start to the game, and having great second periods doesn’t help if you don’t have a solid first period,” said Brent Seabrook
. “We’re just a little flat for some reason and maybe not focused enough. We had a great second period, but you’ve got to start well to be a good team in this league.”
“We played hard tonight and we had our chances,” said Kris Versteeg. “You’ve got to give their goaltender credit: he played well. But we have to come back next game and be ready.”
Playing from behind is nothing new for this Blackhawks team. The Hawks have trailed after one period of play 21 times this season and have come back to win 8 of those matchups, the seventh-best winning percentage in the NHL.
But it seemed like every time the Blackhawks gained momentum – be it off a goal or a strong power play – the Blue Jackets had an answer. After trailing for most of the first period, the Hawks were very aggressive at the open of the second period, netting two early goals and evening the score at 2-2. But Columbus regained their comfortable two-goal cushion shortly after and rode it to the win.
“I think at times we played good hockey and we had the crowd behind us,” said Jonathan Toews
. “If we get a couple of bounces, those pucks go in for us and it’s a different game. We did some good things, but we’ve got to start harder and play a complete game.”
“We gave them a couple of goals that we didn’t defend well enough,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “I don’t think it was a slow start; I think our positioning and reads weren't good and technically we didn’t do the right things. I think there were very innocent plays that resulted in scoring chances [for them].”
Versteeg, who scored the goal that knotted the game at 2-2, said that the final month of the season is crucial not just for the Hawks, but all of the young teams in playoff contention – such as Columbus - who are gearing up for the stretch run.
“It’s a playoff atmosphere every night,” he said. “The last 15 to 20 games in the NHL, every team needs to get ready and a lot of the young teams have to get playoff-ready before the postseason.”