The Blackhawks closed out a three-game road trip with a wild affair in Vancouver, eventually falling 7-5 to the Canucks in a game that featured four tied scorelines and each team holding a multiple-goal lead at one point.
Patrick Kane scored twice, Jonathan Toews had a goal and a helper, and Dominik Kubalik added a trio of assists.
"I really liked how we played in the first half of the game," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I thought we deserved better than (a) 4-2 (lead midway through the second), we did a lot of good things. Came back a few times in the game and that's good, but ultimately we don't want to give up obviously seven, including the empty-netter."
"We have a lot of offense in here, we have the ability to score goals," Kane said. "It's just being committed to defense and creating that way on the transition by turnovers and back-checking and transitioning the other way. I think we can be really good when we play like that. I thought we did that for the most part tonight."
The two teams exploded for six goals in a span of just under nine minutes early in the second period.
Deadlocked 1-1 after 20 minutes, Vancouver re-gained a one-goal lead before a trio of Blackhawk goals put the visitors ahead, 4-2, only to see the Canucks come storming back with a pair of their own, all before the 11:45 mark of the middle frame. There was an average of just 107.4 seconds between each goal and the game never went longer than 2:10 before someone scored again.
"Sometimes that happens in hockey, you know, it's a crazy game. I think you got the feeling when we made it 2-2 that it might be a high-scoring game."
"Yeah, a lot of goals, a lot of nice plays. Just disappointed because we were in a great spot and I thought we played really well," Colliton said. "Not only were we up, I thought we played really well. You'd like to close that game out and it didn't happen."
All-told it was the highest combined score in a game for Chicago this season. The scoresheet will read that Robin Lehner gave up six on the night, but it was a game of bounces for both teams at Rogers Arena.
Jonathan Toews scored in the second period with a deflection off Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes. Hughes was the beneficiary of a return bounce a few moments later and Bo Horvat had a similar bounce off the leg of Dennis Gilbert in the third. Add in two Vancouver deflections off shots from the point, and the weird game wasn't just in goal frequency.
"It was a really weird game," Lehner said. "I thought we deserved better. Every goal was just - what was it, two tips, two off our own bodies. You kind of felt everything they threw to the net went their way. It's tough because I felt like I made a lot of really good saves. I felt good today and to let in six goals is frustrating. I thought Kaner and a few other guys really stepped up and we should've got a point out of this. It's a good team over there."
"I think a lot of it was just unfortunate. You know, puck's going wide and goes off a guy and in, you can't explain those things," Colliton said. "We've been fortunate sometimes to get a bounce like that, but overall I look at how we played and I think the first half of the game we were really good and then not as good in the second half."
Thursday's game might've been a sour end to Chicago's three-game road trip, but the Blackhawks still picked up a pair of difficult road wins and have won six of their last nine to pull within five points of a wild card spot to open the second half.
"There's a lot of positives to take," Connor Murphy said. "I think just the way guys came together and played in three different time zones, a lot of travel and seemed to string periods together and show that we can be a team to put a big winning streak together. I think we really wanted to do that tonight, but we know in order to be that team that we think we can be, we have to string it together at some point and we have a good opportunity going home to do that."
That big opportunity at home comes with four straight over a seven-day stretch at the United Center beginning with Sunday's game against Detroit. If the Blackhawks can continue their current stretch of performances, it's a big chance to jump right into the thick of things in the Western Conference - especially with crucial matchups against fellow-Wild Card contenders Calgary (Tuesday) and Nashville (Thursday).
"I think you've got to be happy if you take two out of three," Kane said. "We were in this game tonight, we had a chance to win this game too," Kane said. "I think our team's turning in the right direction. It's not perfect yet, but we're building and we're finding a way to get better."
"We got some points and that's important," Colliton said. "It's tough right now after this game to be too positive about it but we have an opportunity to play at home, we haven't played well enough at home, so that'll be a focus. It's an opportunity but we need to make sure we play a road-type patient game at home and then we will get points."
Thursday's game was the return to Rogers Arena for Kirby Dach, where he was drafted No. 3 overall in June.
"It's been a wild ride," the 18-year-old said looking back. "It wasn't too long ago I was sitting in the stands here, waiting for my name to be called. My life's kind of changed drastically since then, but it's been a lot of fun and I've enjoyed everything."
Any one of the 31 teams could've called Dach's name that night, a weird feeling having your entire hockey future dictated while sitting in the stands, almost completely out your of control. The forward has found the right fit in Chicago, making the team take a hard look at him out of camp and then sticking around past the 10-game threshold that he could've been sent back to the WHL's Saskatoon Blades prior to hitting.
"It was only six months ago and where I could've been in a number of different places. Now that I'm here, I'm happy to be a part of the Blackhawks and obviously I had the confidence in myself in making the team right away out of camp. I just have to keep continue working and it's pretty cool coming here."
Dach, playing in his 36th game on Thursday night, has gone through the highs of his first NHL game, first NHL goal a game later and a five-game point streak in mid-November, but also the stretch of one point in the now 21 games since. The centerman knows it's all part of the adjustment process and he's got the support around him to grow throughout his rookie season, setting up what both the Blackhawks and he hope is a long and successful career.
"I think as a young guy, physically I feel like I fit in the game and I'm more mature that way, but I think the hardest part for me has been the mental grind and just how many games you're playing in such short of nights and the travel," he said. "It's a lot for a young guy to try to take in. I'm fortunate, there's an old group here that's kind of helped me grow and develop in that way and it's been awesome for me."