Hawks continue to struggle in close games

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For whatever reason, the Chicago Blackhawks can’t clamp down and win a low-scoring affair this season. For the 66th time in 83 games they were required to score three goals to win, but they failed to do so, falling to the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in overtime in Game 1 of their playoff series Thursday night.

The Hawks did plenty right, but just enough wrong to lose. The decisive period was the middle 20 minutes when the Coyotes erased a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead.

“We had turnover trouble there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We got caught standing still with the puck. We didn’t advance it. We had some long shifts in our end and got a tired group a couple times.”

Those are just a few of the little things the Hawks did wrong. They lost faceoffs, 57 percent of them; they also took icings and had bad line changes. Maybe these are the reasons the Hawks didn’t earn a shutout throughout the regular season and now one playoff game. They just don’t bear down, especially with the lead.

“We were standing around a little too much trying to make plays without our feet moving,” Patrick Sharp said. “Quite a few turnovers [too].”

Add turnovers to negatives for the Hawks. Sharp was on ice for the sequence that led to the Coyotes' second goal. A harmless-looking delayed offsides call turned into a counterattack by Phoenix. The Hawks were late for a line change and Antoine Vermette blasted one by Corey Crawford. Before that, sloppy play in the Hawks' own zone led to a disastrous fourth line shift leading to a Taylor Pyatt score.

“We turned the puck over way too much,” Jamal Mayers said. “[If] we fix those things we’ll be fine.”

Mayers and his wings were on the ice for a whopping 1:46 before the Pyatt score as they couldn’t clear the zone. Neither could defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Sean O’Donnell. A few turnovers in the sequence didn’t help matters.

This could have been the night the Hawks put themselves in a position for a much-needed shutout. Crawford was playing well but then the Hawks hung him out to dry.

“Tough way to go down in Game 1 but we have some positives to take out of this one,” Jonathan Toews said.

Toews was one of them. He played great and scored on his second shift of the game. But the Hawks were careless and it caught up with them in overtime as well. After Marcus Kruger iced the puck, he lost a faceoff and Martin Hanzal tipped in the game winner seconds later.

"We didn’t think we were going to win this series 4-0 so now we have our work cut out for us,” Brent Seabrook said.

At some point, the Hawks will need to win a 2-1 or 1-0 game. Thursday was the night it could have happened. There is no panic nor any reason to believe the Hawks can’t win the series, but giving away games could come back to bite them, especially when the goalie on the other side is capable of what the Hawks are not -- shutting down an opponent completely.

“Just a combination of a lot of things [went wrong]. We’ll look at it tonight and discuss it,” Sharp said.