The Chicago Blackhawks put up what can be argued as one of their best showings in the past three weeks, but it was still not enough to avoid their sixth straight loss at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, falling 4-3 against the reigning Western Conference Champions.
Another poor start seemed to have doomed the Blackhawks, falling 2-0 before the first frame even ended. Reilly Smith scored 88 seconds into the first period, tallying a powerplay goal eight seconds into the Golden Knights’ first man advantage of the game. Defenseman Derek Engelland scored his first of the year with 12 minutes left in the first. This period also saw two A++ chances by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews that, for reasons passing understanding, somehow never found the back of the net.
The second period was more fortuitous for the Blackhawks. Toews potted his 13th goal of the year, banking it from behind goalie Marc Andre Fleury’s net. The play was started by a face-off win from Toews, followed by a strong board battle win from John Hayden, who enjoyed some time on Chicago’s first line with Toews and Brandon Saad. Dylan Strome scored his sixth of the year with 3:45 left in the period to tie the game.
Artem Anisimov broke the tie during the third period, pick-pocketting Vegas d-man Nick Holden in the neutral zone, creating a partial breakaway for himself. Anisimov’s backhand tally gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead, something that they haven’t held in nine games and a total of 527:14 of game time. It was short-lived though, 41 seconds to be exact, because Vegas scored two goals in a span of 20 seconds to regain the lead, courtesy of Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch.
Marc Andre Fleury was stellar on net for Vegas, stopping 29 out of the 32 shots he faced. Core Crawford, who went 32 saves for 36 shots, was again the victim of the glaring defensive lapses in front of him.
The Blackhawks have now lost 17 out of their last 20 games. Their current record of 9-16-5 is good for sixth in the Central Division and 29th for the entire league. They are currently on pace to earn only 67 points in the year. While they are currently only 10 points away from the last playoff spot in the West, they would need to win maybe 33 to 35 of their next 53 games in order to get there. They could start that trajectory Sunday afternoon, when Carey Price and Montreal Canadiens visit the United Center.