ST. PAUL, Minn. -- “It was like two different hockey games.”
Those were the truthful words of John Madden after the Chicago Blackhawks’ historic collapse in Minnesota. For the first time in franchise history they blew a four-goal lead in the third period. They lost this one in an eight-round shootout, but it’s those last 20 minutes of regulation that will be remembered, however much its participants may want to forget it.
Though hard to explain this one, they tried.
“I think we just weren’t prepared for the third period,” Madden said after the game. “It’s a lesson learned that’s for sure. We should have gotten out of there with two points for sure. It kind of got out of control.”
“There’s no excuse for that,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “They got a couple quick ones early and we have to find a way to kill off that momentum and we didn’t do that. They just kept going off it right into the shootout. That’s what happened. We’ll learn from it.”
“We didn’t do anything to stop it,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Cant play like that in the third and expect to win, even if you have a 5-1 lead. They had a lot of momentum. We needed to get back to playing hard and smart and doing the right things and it seemed like we went the opposite way.”
“Obviously they got momentum when they made it 5-2 and then scoring almost right after that and then getting the power play [goal],” Hawks coach Joel Quenenville said. “At 5-4 it’s anybody’s ballgame but certainly we did a lot of good things up until that point in the game.”
That they did. It only took two periods for each of the top nine forwards to record at least a point. That’s the third time since New Year’s Eve the Hawks have done that. Their play in the first two periods had the largest crowd of the season at Xcel Energy Center shaking their heads. These were no ugly goals they were scoring in building a 5-1 advantage. One pretty passing play after another sent Niklas Backstrom to the showers. What looked to be the final nail in the coffin was a short handed breakaway tally by Marian Hossa late in the second. Other than Patrick Kane’s lone shootout goal, it would be the last time the Hawks would see the back of the Wild net.
It was the second consecutive game they chased the starting goaltender, but Josh Harding got the job done in relief for Minnesota.
“It was a tough loss,” Quenneville said. “We also had four chances in the shootout to end it. So we left a big point on the table we can’t let go but it’s a good lesson knowing we had five or six of these [blowouts] in the last eight games that [weren’t close]. We have to make sure we keep the foot on the pedal.”
The best tonic for a game like this: play again. And the Hawks will do that Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.
“Its frustrating but you have to learn from it,” Keith said. “You have to remember this game and learn from it but you also have to move on. We have a game [Sunday].”
“We‘ll address [it] but we have a game [Sunday],” Quenneville said. “It’s an important game. It wasn’t a bad road trip [in terms of] how we played, but we certainly don’t like the ending here today.”
No one did.
-- In addition to setting a franchise record for a third period collapse, the Hawks also simply blew any four goal lead for the first time since January of 1985 in Pittsburgh.
-- According to the box score the Hawks were outhit in the game 46-12. Cal Clutterbuck was credited with nine. Again, that’s according to the boxscore compiled by the Wild. No Hawk was named a star of the game.
-- Dustin Byfuglien had a strong night with two assists. The Minnestoa native had over 30 friends and family in attendance.
-- Cam Barker missed his third consecutive game with an upper body injury that he said “wasn’t a head problem.” He’s day to day.
The Hawks will end a stretch of 15 games in 26 days with Sunday’s game against the Ducks. The Hawks are 11-2-1 in the first fourteen.