Hawks can't finish against Avs -- again

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks arguably outplayed the Colorado Avalanche the past two times the teams have met.

The Blackhawks outshot the Avalanche 48-26 in their matchup on Jan. 14. Chicago dominated possession again on Tuesday and outshot the Avalanche 38-21. The opportunities to load up on goals were certainly there for the Blackhawks on both occasions.

But both times, the result was the same. The Blackhawks weren’t able to capitalize on their many chances and squandered key points in what is becoming a tighter Central Division race. After falling 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 14, the Blackhawks lost 4-2 to the Avalanche on Tuesday.

Giving the Avalanche four points in those games could come back to haunt the Blackhawks. The Avalanche moved within a point of the Blackhawks for second place in the Central on Tuesday and have played one less game than Chicago. The St. Louis Blues also built a two-point lead on the Blackhawks with another win on Tuesday.

“We lost a lot of ground tonight, the four-point swing,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Now we’re behind [the Blues], now Colorado is one behind. A lot of things can change. We’d love to move ahead. We’d love to finish first in our division. Let’s know we got to be better and more consistent in stretches in games. For the most part, we did the right things tonight. We should have taken advantage of it.”

The Blackhawks acknowledged Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov once again played a major role in Colorado's win, but they also felt they left some opportunities on the table, especially scoring just once and totaling four shots on goal on four power plays.

“We had some chances,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We couldn’t bury them. They buried their chances.”

As many shots as the Blackhawks couldn't put away on Varlamov, Quenneville was even more disappointed with his team’s defense on the Avalanche’s first three goals. The third line's defense led to the first goal. Duncan Keith missed on an attempted steal in the neutral zone, leading to the the second goal. And the penalty kill wasn’t able to rotate quick enough on the third goal.

“I thought we outchanced them, outplayed,” Quenneville said. “I didn’t like any of the goals that went in tonight.”

The division wasn’t won or lost on Tuesday, but the Blackhawks realized time was running out. They have 19 games, including one more against the Avalanche and two more against the Blues, to finish out the regular season.

“They’re good teams and so are we,” Seabrook said. “We just got to find a way to get some victories against them. I think we play them a couple more times each. We’ll be ready.

“[The end of the season has] come up quick. We got to turn this around quick and get back to playing our hockey and our style of game.”