Traverse City, Mich. -- The bounces may not have gone their way, but there were still positives for Blackhawks prospects to take from their 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday to open the Prospect Tournament.
With players admittedly still trying to find their skating legs, the Blackhawks fell behind early as Rangers forwards Malte Stromwall and Ryan Gropp each put the puck past goaltender Collin Delia. Chicago pushed back with a few chances of their own and, later in the period, forced Rangers netminder Chris Nell into making three consecutive stops from close range to preserve the lead.
"After we went down 2-0 we played well," new Rockford Head Coach Jeremy Colliton said afterward. "I thought the second period was good; we should have pulled something back there and maybe it took a little longer to get rewarded. But as long as we're doing good things and the intentions are good, then we're happy. Especially on day one -- these guys haven't played in forever."
Video: DeBrincat scores in loss to NYR
New York's third goal of the game came midway through the second period, credited to defenseman Sean Day. Two of the three Rangers tallies came off deflections with screens in front -- perhaps a bit unlucky for Delia, who had a strong debut with the team he signed with as a free agent in late July.
"A lot of times when you look at a goal that comes from a bad bounce, there's a bunch of stuff before that that turned into zone time," Colliton said. "You end up being in your end, and then those bad bounces happen."
The third period opened up for the Blackhawks, whose late revival was engineered by the likeliest of sources -- their top line of David Kampf, Alex DeBrincat and Alexandre Fortin. DeBrincat picked up an assist on Chicago's first goal, a tap-in from defenseman Carl Dahlstrom with 3:35 remaining in regulation. Just 92 seconds later, with Chicago's net empty on a late power play, the 2016 second-round pick sniped the puck into the top corner from the left circle to cut the deficit once more.
Kampf, a highly skilled Czech free-agent signing, also logged a point on Dahlstrom's goal; defensemen Robin Press and Luc Snuggerud collected the helpers on DeBrincat's tally.
"Once one goal goes in, the goalie's confidence maybe goes down," DeBrincat said. "But that's good for us going into the next game, knowing we can score. Hockey's a confidence game. If we know we can do that, we'll be fine."
"They did a good job," Colliton said of his top line. "Kind of mirrors the team -- they deserved better. They got scored on in the first, but they created some [chances] and had some puck possession. In the first two periods, there were plays to be made that they didn't quite execute, but they continued to push and they got rewarded in the end. Good to see."
Although the Blackhawks fell just short of completing the comeback, the late goals should provide a boost for a young team that's trying to gel in a short amount of time. And with a quick turnaround between games, Colliton stressed that part of the process of becoming a pro was making the little improvements from day to day.
"We'll rotate the lineup a little bit, get a couple of guys in who didn't play tonight," he said about Saturday afternoon's tilt against the Detroit Red Wings. "It's another opportunity for these guys to show they're progressing and getting used to a pro-style game. That's what we're looking for. The things that we taught tonight, hopefully they're going to execute better and more consistently, and maybe we'll get a result."