One winning streak had to give when the Blackhawks faced the Hurricanes on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it was their four-game run that came to an end as the Hurricanes prevailed 4-2 to win their fourth in a row.
The Hurricanes raced to a 3-0 lead before the Blackhawks mounted a spirited third-period comeback on goals by Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy (both assisted by Patrick Kane) to come within a score but in the end fell short.
"We got skating in the third and obviously we got momentum from the (Gustafsson) goal but I thought we had some shifts before that where we created some offense," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We also got a couple saves from Robin (Lehner) to keep it 3-0. We've just got to start playing earlier."
Lehner made 29 saves but suffered the loss in goal. Counterpart Petr Mrazek (30 saves) earned the win for the Hurricanes, who were led offensively by Nino Niederreiter's goal and assist.
"Two bad periods, one good one," Lehner said. "We've been playing pretty good, (we) just have to go win the next one (and) don't lose two in a row. We're fine, we're fine. Everyone's just got to be a little bit better."
The Blackhawks fell to 9-8-4 while the Hurricanes improved to 13-7-1 on the season.
Just when it appeared the Blackhawks would go quietly into the night, the offense came alive when Gustafsson and Murphy scored 1:10 apart with just over eight minutes remaining in the third.
"I liked that we didn't quit, that was a positive and I liked that we showed some fight in the third and we got going and put a scare into them," Colliton said. "But it's frustrating because we showed that was a winnable game if we played, if we turned on a little bit earlier. We've had a good stretch and that was a setback and now we've got to respond on Thursday (against the Lightning)."
The instant offensive electrified the United Center crowd of 21,325 and kept the Blackhawks buzzing but they couldn't find the equalizer against Mrazek.
"We got the crowd into it and it was a pretty good feeling that we could get that third (goal) and force overtime," captain Jonathan Toews said. "So it's nice to at least get that feeling when we get momentum in games, especially here at home that we can put a lot of pressure on teams, make them sit back on their heels, make them make mistakes, so it was nice to see."
Lehner said the Blackhawks had a talk following the second period and told each other to stick together and that helped lead to the strong third.
"Obviously, everyone in the building (knew) the first two periods weren't good enough," Lehner said. "They dominated us the first two periods, then we had a push and played the way we can (and) then we dominated them. But … (it's) a 60-minute game. (It's) go to bed, let this one go, come Thursday (and) win a game. Pretty simple."
After notching just three goals in the Blackhawks first 13 games, defensemen have come alive in the goal-scoring department. With Gustafsson and Murphy finding the back of the net against the Hurricanes, the Blackhawks have had six goals from the back end in the last four contests.
"It's definitely important," Murphy said of defensemen providing some offense. "You want to be able to create chances with everyone. A lot of times I think our forwards attract so much attention - guys like Kane with the puck - (and) create space and chances for D-men.
"Just the way the game is now, everyone has to be able to jump and help create those odd-man plays and that's how you're going to put teams on their heels and keep them from attacking back," Murphy added.
The Blackhawks appeared to be feeling the effects of playing their third games in four nights and came out flat. The Hurricanes out shot the Blackhawks 13-4 in the opening period and had a 27-12 shot advantage after two.
"I guess you're bound to have a game like that where (we) play a lot of games, (with) a lot of travel, all those things," Toews said. "You've got to find ways to get your energy from the get-go, even if you're not feeling it 100 percent. We found a way late in the game, we've just got to find a way to bring it early on and I think if we play three solid 20s we have a better chance of winning."
During the Blackhawks busy stretch, the Hurricanes were enjoying some time off having not played since a 4-3 overtime victory over the Wild on Saturday night in Minnesota.
Colliton acknowledged the Blackhawks "could" have had tired legs but pointed out, "we looked pretty fresh in the third. Maybe it was mentally (tough), I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, we weren't playing the way we need to play in the beginning of the game. They were first to a lot of pucks they won, they were really aggressive on the forecheck and it seemed like every single wall battle they came out with the puck. Then it's hard to play because we couldn't generate anything because we never had the puck and we couldn't get out under control. We couldn't get a forecheck going and to their credit they did a good job. But we needed to respond earlier and better."