Hawks skate well but suffer overtime loss

CHICAGO -- Baby steps.

The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t happy about losing 3-2 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, but compared to their recent play this one almost felt like a win.

The Hawks led for nearly the whole game, but some questionable non-calls by the referees gave Detroit a chance to win and they took it. After the game, the Hawks wouldn’t use that as an excuse. They’re just happy they had a positive effort, if not result.

“It’s been a tough stretch for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We played better tonight. More deserving of two points. It’s tough to protect a one-goal lead for as long as we did.”

The Hawks scored twice before the first television timeout, but had nothing for the rest of the night. Detroit had little in the way of offense as well until Nick Leddy was hammered from behind in the crease on the tying goal and then the Wings may have gotten a break with a non-call of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty on the winning score.

“I don’t want to blame the refs,” Viktor Stalberg said. “We did that the last couple of games and it seems like that’s not helping our cause.”

So the Hawks were focusing on themselves. Despite getting a point, they’ve dropped a season-high four in a row.

“We’re going to stick with it,” Toews said. “We’re not getting on each other. It’s one of those things that happens like once a year. We know we didn’t play well the last couple games but tonight we turned it around and focused on the details and started doing the things we have to do to be successful.”

They played just fine. In a close game, bad officiating can’t be swept aside. Not when it comes on scoring plays. Even on the first Red Wings goal, Brent Seabrook was tripped before he was sent to the penalty box, allowing a 5-on-3 power play. The Red Wings scored.

So a trip, a crosscheck and a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. All missed, and all led to goals.

The Hawks did get one break, sort of. After replays deemed a puck did not cross the line, they were still given a penalty shot based on a rarely invoked call. Tomas Holmstrom was deemed to have closed his hand on the puck in the crease so young Jimmy Hayes was chosen to attempt to pad a 2-1 lead.

“Jimmy is a scorer,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his choice. “He’s been playing well. Plus it was a fresh look too. Not a lot of history to go on. Was a guess.”

Quenneville got to choose because the rule states anyone on the ice at the time is allowed to shoot. Unfortunately, the Hawks’ fourth line and third defensive pair were playing and so the choices were limited in terms of scorers. It was either Hayes, Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette, Steve Montador or Sean O'Donnell.

“A little surprised,” Hayes said of being picked. “First one I ever had. Wish I had hit back. Fanned on it. Tried to go upstairs on it. Didn’t get enough of it.”

It came back to haunt the Hawks when Detroit tied it later in the third, but only after Leddy got crosschecked from behind. The winning goal went off Leddy as well. He’s had a tough stretch of late, earning a minus-7 over his last three games. It wasn’t long ago he was “slew footed” on a scoring play in the crease, and now comes the costly crosscheck.

“We’re kind of in a funk,” Hayes said. “We just have to find a way to get out of it.”

They’re close, and if not for the previous three losses this one would not be so tough to swallow.

“That race we’ve had, we might have been ahead of those teams, but it wasn’t like we were light years ahead of them,” Quenneville said of dropping in the standings. “It’s one, two-point swing here, everybody’s in the mix. I see this battle going on all year, and the conference is tightening up as well, but we did give away a lot of ground here this week, and it’s up to us to regain where we’re at.”

A point is a good start. Now they need some wins.