March has been tough on the Blackhawks. After beating up on the bottom half of the division in February, the calendar rolled over and the results went the wrong direction.
Chicago began the final two games of their toughest road trip of the season on Thursday night in Tampa after allowing ten goals in two games on the other side of the state. The Blackhawks were 0-for-8 on the power play in their previous two games. Would the Hawks figure something out?
They got a chance almost immediately. Barclay Goodrow went to the box 47 seconds into the game, and the Hawks broke through against the best netminder in the league. Mattias Janmark’s tenth of the season came with assists to Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik.
Chicago held onto the lead for more than 11 minutes, and held Tampa to two shots on goal in the first 12 minutes of the opening period. That is until Alex Killorn tied the game at one. Killorn loves playing the Blackhawks; he has now scored in five straight games against the Hawks.
Four minutes later with Lucas Wallmark in the box, Yanni Gourde scored a power play goal to give Tampa a 2-1 lead. It kinda sorta felt like the wheels were about to come tumbling off (again), but at least this time the Hawks didn’t cough up a multi-goal lead.
Not so fast! Pat Maroon went to the box inside the final two minutes of the period and Dylan Strome, who returned to the lineup from concussion protocol, was the right man in the right place. Strome’s power play goal tied the game at two.
The Bolts out-shot the Hawks 10-9 in the first period and spent almost as much time chasing Connor Murphy around the ice as they did trying to score. Tampa was clearly trying to get Murphy to drop the gloves at some point after his hit on Erik Cernak on March 7. Murphy did not take the bait, however.
The second period saw more harassing Murphy and less offense. The teams combined for 14 total shots on net (seven for each side) and zero goals.
Kevin Lankinen was holding his own between the pipes again, but the Hawks weren’t generating anything at even strength.
The next goal would be huge, and unfortunately it came from Tampa’s Ross Colton at 5:32 into the third. Tampa was bringing pressure early and often in the third and the Hawks were turning the puck over far too frequently.
At the tv timeout with eight minutes remaining in regulation, Strome and Janmark had combined to put nine shots on goal. The rest of the Blackhawks lineup had 10… combined. And only one other Blackhawks – Duncan Keith (two) – had more than one.
Chicago continued chasing and pulled Lankinen for the extra attacker with under two minutes left in regulation. But they couldn’t even get a shot on net, much less control the puck for more than five or six seconds at a time. Tampa was willingly blocking shots before they got to the net. A blocked DeBrincat shot was flipped the other direction by Victor Hedman and found the empty cage with 15 seconds left to put the final nail in the coffin.
At the tv timeout we mentioned previously the Blackhawks had 19 shots on net. They were credited with two more shots on net as a team in the final eight minutes of regulation.
The Blackhawks offense was inept. Tampa did not play a good game and they were able to skate away with a two-goal victory. With the exception of two power play goals in the first period Chicago generated absolutely nothing.
The Blackhawks put 21 shots on goal in 60 minutes. Lankinen stopped 19 of 22.
Janmark led the Hawks with five shots on net and added an assist on the Strome goal to his own power play marker. He was terrific.
Strome looked pretty good for his first action in a month as well. He won four of seven faceoffs and put four shots on net.
After the game, Murphy talked about Tampa trying to pick a fight. His answer was tremendous.
Murphy: "Goodrow came up to me and challenged me to a fight and I said no to the fight. He wouldn't let it go."— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) March 19, 2021
"I chose not to. We've been searching for a win and this was a big game for us. I didn't want to sit in the penalty box for that long."