Unlike the trip's opener where Chicago started strong and faded in the latter periods, Edmonton jumped out to an early lead just 73 seconds in and, despite a 2-2 scoreline after 20 minutes, head coach Jeremy Colliton said it was key lapses early that held the Blackhawks back on Tuesday night.
"Too little, too late," he said. "Very good third, desperation in our game and we had some chances ... the first two periods were too much up and down. I think there were portions of the first 40 minutes where we were really good and looked like we might take control of things, but we just weren't sharp all the time and they made us pay."
Chicago now sits six points out of a Wild Card spot - just one more than the five they trialed by coming into the night - but as crucial games come and go, the current four-game winless run has halted the breakneck pace of late December and January, where the Blackhawks vaulted themselves back into the playoff hunt.
"It's a tough start to the trip," Patrick Kane said. "Had a great start in the first period the other night. Obviously we didn't have a good start tonight. Winnable games and you come out with no points, it's definitely frustrating."
"We're in the playoff race. We have to stop the bleeding and get back and climb back in," netminder Robin Lehner said. "We fought hard to put ourselves in that position and we can't let it slip away from us. Everyone has to be better, I have to be better, bring our 'A' game and start getting some points."
When asked about the frustration level within the group, Colliton couldn't deny the last week's toll on the once-soaring confidence.
"Should be high," he said. "We've got to find a way to produce complete efforts and if we do, it'll be good enough to get points. I think we're good enough. I believe in the guys that we have that we're good enough to string results together, but we've got to find a way to be more consistent within the game and within periods and shift to shift."
With still three games left on the trip against teams in the thick of the postseason hunt, there's time to correct the two-loss start - but time is of the essence.
"We've just got to go and win a game," Lehner said. "Tough few ones to let slip away from us. There's not much to say, we just have to win the next game."
"We're in the race, but we have to find a way to raise our level just like all the other teams are," Colliton added.
Following a disappointing stretch in power play production, the Blackhawks shifted things around on the top unit on Tuesday night with Zack Smith and Dominik Kubalik replacing Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat, both of whom were on the second unit.
With three chances on the night, the opening two looks produced little in terms of offense, but a third-period power play saw the Blackhawks moving the puck with more ease and firing six shots on goal in a two-minute span.
"(We) couldn't get set on the first two, but the third was better," Colliton said. "We moved it clean, which is the biggest thing, with Smitty in front and Kuby's a shooter, so it has a little different look and it showed that we maybe have something there."
"I think we practiced it this morning with those units, but it's a little bit different in a game when you're breaking out and going against the other team's best penalty killers," Kane said. "Thought it was a little bit better in the third. We had a good power play, had a lot of shots, a lot of opportunities ... it still needs to be better for us."
After missing the latter half of last Wednesday's game against Boston at home and Sunday's game in Winnipeg with a shoulder injury, Adam Boqvist returned to the lineup in Edmonton and made a statement return, netting his fourth goal of the season in a second period 2-on-2 rush with Patrick Kane.
Jumping up into the rush out of his own zone, Boqvist opened up on the weak side as Kane fired a backhand pass across the top of the slot - past two Oilers defensemen in the process - to the rookie for a quick wrister that beat Mike Smith for the then-go-ahead goal early in the middle frame.
"Really impressive play by him," Kane said. "Just to not only jump up in the play, but kind of read where the opening was and then get his stick, he had his stick pretty much behind his body and just a really nice catch-and-release. We've seen that a lot from him in practice and what he's able to do with his shot, so that's a good all-around play by him."