Out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 10-plus minutes of the game, things were looking up for the Blackhawks to start a crucial road trip, but a special-teams-ravaged middle frame and a frustrating third saw the lead escape them with five unanswered goals, including a pair of empty-netters, in the 5-2 loss to Winnipeg.
"I thought we had an excellent first. I really liked how we played and obviously the scoreboard reflected that..." head coach Jeremy Colliton said postgame. "It's disappointing because if we find a way to play anywhere close to our first period, then the last two periods are probably in pretty good shape."
Up a goal in the third, the Blackhawks found themselves in penalty trouble with a trio of final-frame minors that led to the eventual game-tying goal from Blake Wheeler on the advantage and the game-winner from Andrew Copp just minutes later with Chicago still flustered.
"Things were looking good the first shift of the game," said Jonathan Toews, who assisted on Dominik Kubalik's opening goal just 15 seconds into the first. "Thought it was going to be one of those nights, but they bounced back and obviously played their best hockey late in the game."
"I think a lack of focus there," said Brandon Saad, who scored the game's second goal. "We needed to play a full 60 minutes. We knew how big the game is. Just because we started out well, we took our foot off the gas, they obviously have a nice shorthanded goal and kind of took it to us for the rest of the game."
The comeback started with an early Blackhawks power play that went the other way for the visitors. Less than a minute into a Sami Niku tripping penalty, the Jets capitalized on a shorthanded 2-on-1 for their first goal of the night.
All told, in three man advantages during the middle frame, the Blackhawks managed just one meaningful scoring opportunity.
"The power play was a huge momentum-killer for us," Colliton said. "Not only did they score, but we didn't react well to that adversity and it seemed to affect the rest of the game."
"Puck plays were a little sloppy, a bunch of turnovers and at the very least you don't want to give up any chances against," Saad added. "Just killed our momentum."
Following an 0-for-3 night on Sunday with the man advantage, Chicago is now has just two goals in their last 20 power plays and now sits 28th in the NHL this season, converting only 15 percent of their advantages.
"I guess at some point, with the guys that you've got, you've got to find ways to relax and just feed off each other and get some momentum and get some confidence," Toews said of the struggles with the extra man. "It's up to us, we can't make excuses. Can't keep changing it either and think there's some magic formula, it's up to the guys that get the chance to go out there to really earn it and work for it and not take it for granted."
Following a three-game point drought, Toews hit another career milestone with his 800th NHL point on Kubalik's opening goal. The captain is just the sixth player to log 800 points in a Blackhawks sweater and the fourth member of the 2006 draft class to reach the mark.
"It's a nice stepping stone and nice to get a big number like that here at home, in my hometown of Winnipeg," Toews said.
"Hell of a player and comes to play every night and I thought that line was pretty good tonight," Colliton added. "Obviously a big accomplishment and he's got a lot more left, I think."
In 17 career games in his hometown, Toews now has 13 points (5G, 8A) in Manitoba - Sunday's his first since April 2016.
"Yeah, it's nice to come home every time, but especially this time of year," he said. "These are obviously big games and big points for either team."