It was a rough night all around as the Blackhawks kicked off a three-game road trip in Las Vegas.
Not only did the Blackhawks fall to the Golden Knights 5-1 on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena, they lost defenseman Calvin de Haan when the veteran left the game during a scoreless first period with a right shoulder injury and did not return.
"(We're) not happy with the performance, obviously," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I thought the first period was not bad. We still gave up more than we should. But, obviously, losing de Haan was a big blow and I thought we got worn down as the game went on back there for sure. It's asking a lot of guys but whether it's managing the puck or just being sharp in transition they were better than us."
Reilly Smith had a goal and an assist while Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland and Ryan Reaves also scored for the Golden Knights. That was plenty of offense for Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as the veteran had 28 saves and allowed only a Dominik Kubalik goal in the final minute.
Corey Crawford suffered the loss in goal as the Blackhawks had their three-game points streak snapped and fell to 12-13-6. The Golden Knights improved to 16-12-5.
Here are three takeways from the Blackhawks' loss:
THIN BLUE LINE
Already down Duncan Keith and Olli Maatta to a groin injury and flulike symptoms, respectively, the Blackhawks' defensive corps suffered a significant blow when de Haan left Tuesday's game.
Colliton said the injury to the same shoulder that de Haan had surgery on while with the Hurricanes last season is "not good" and the veteran will head back to Chicago for evaluation.
"He's a really good player for us," Colliton said. "He's been good all year so certainly (we were) missing his calmness and he makes a lot of plays and defends really well."
de Haan played 7:35 before leaving the game and forcing the Blackhawks to skate five defenseman for the bulk of the contest.
"He's a great player so anytime you lose someone that good it's going to have a big effect," fellow defenseman Connor Murphy said of de Haan. "It put more pressure on us, but we've still got to be able to play with whoever we have.
"Just the next man in has got to step up," Murphy added. "As a team, you're going to have a lot of ups and downs throughout the year and stuff like that is going to happen. The next guy has got to be ready to play and we believe we have players that are good enough to make that impact and step in when there are injuries."
Rookies Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert were paired together on the back end as Colliton put together a makeshift defense. Maatta is on the trip and has been skating but missed his fourth consecutive game.
"He's still recovering," Colliton said. "It took a lot out of him so we got him out on the ice now and we just want him feeling confident that he's ready to play. We've been talking every day with both him and the medical staff. Hopefully, (it's) not too much longer."
The Blackhawks also played without forwards Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula-each is on the injured list while recovering from concussion symptoms. Dylan Sikura played in his second game with the Blackhawks this season, skating on a line with David Kampf and Zack Smith.
"It's just opportunity for other guys to step forward," Colliton said of the injury woes. "All (teams) go through that and the ones that can have success, they have other guys step in-whether it is guys who are already on the roster, or maybe someone who gets called up and gets the chance. That's what we need."
Crawford allowed five goals on 37 shots as the Golden Knights kept coming at the netminder in waves. The veteran showed his frustration by slamming his stick along the Blackhawks bench as the team headed to the dressing room following the second period.
"He deserves to be frustrated," Murphy said. "It's not fair what we give up against him. It's not just chances, it's breakaways. It's just unbelievable what he's had to deal with all year with some of these games when we hang him out to dry. It's definitely something nice to see because it's a wakeup call for us players to play better in front of him."
Crawford dropped to 6-8-2 on the season and saw his goals-against rise to 3.02 and save percentage drop to .909.
"We have to be better," Colliton said. "We have to protect our 'D' with numbers back in transition while also making sure we manage the puck through the neutral zone and (also) create and sustain offensive zone time. That's what would make the game easier for everybody."
AT THE DOT
Jonathan Toews went 10-for-21 in the faceoff circle for the Blackhawks. The Captain entered the game ranked 18th in the NHL with a 55.1 winning percentage, down from his career mark of 56.8.
"I don't think I had a very good start in that regard (and) I'm starting to build some confidence at this point of the year," Toews said recently. "It's what you're working on a little bit more in practice, having that compete level, that energy that you're going to go in there and give your best shot every time. It's timing. You get off to a good start in a game, you kind of play rock, paper, scissors. Get in the guy's head a little bit and change things up, depending on who you're up against. Most of it is just compete and just feel, and trying to get that timing down right."
Toews added that it can at times be difficult not to get thrown out of the circle.
"Nothing against the officials, but there are some young linesmen that you've never seen before and sometimes they're by the book," Toews said. "Both guys are trying to get an edge and I think for me I kind of get a little frustrated when they're letting the other team get the edge and cheat on draws a little bit more so you've just got to find ways to know what to expect and what he's going to do and when he's going to drop the puck."
Having a familiarity and working relationship with certain linemen can also come into play, according to Toews.
"It's huge," Toews said. "(I've) probably burned a few bridges there over the years but I'm trying to my best to be friendly and talk to them and at least if they want something different out of me to at least try and figure out what that is if they throw me out early in the game. A big thing is talking to those guys and figuring out what their approach is for the game."