Once again, the Blackhawks put plenty of shots on net against Semyon Varlamov and the Colorado Avalanche. And, again, Varlamov was up to the challenge as the Hawks dropped a game in Denver and fell to third place in the Central Division.
Antti Raanta was in net for the first time since late January, and played well in spite of the three goals allowed. He made a number of great saves in the first, but allowed a soft goal to Brad Malone with 96 seconds left in the opening period. Matt Duchene beat him only 19 seconds into the middle frame, and Ryan O’Reilly scored a power play goal while the Avs had a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third period.
The Hawks managed to get 25 shots on Varlamov in the first 40 minutes, but only Patrick Kane was able to beat Colorado’s netminder.
In the third, a dumb interference penalty on Andrew Shaw was followed by a delay of game penalty on Marcus Kruger. The Avs had better than 90 seconds of a two-man advantage, and were able to convert to extend to a two-goal advantage.
With Raanta on the bench for the extra skater, Brandon Saad scored his 19th of the season to bring the Hawks back to within one with 2:17 remaining in regulation. The Hawks pulled Raanta again in the closing minute and put a flurry of shots on net, but weren’t able to tie the score.
Coach Joel Quenneville not only surprised many by starting Raanta in net, but also threw a curveball with seven defensemen in the lineup; Sheldon Brookbank skated as a forward and recently acquired center Peter Regin was a healthy scratch.
Varlamov was credited with 37 saves in the win, stopping 13 of 14 in both the second and third periods. In five games (four starts) against the Blackhawks this year, Varlamov has stopped 168 of 175 shots (.960 save percentage) and has a 4-0-0 record.
For Chicago, Jonathan Toews won 18 of 25 faceoffs and Saad led the team with seven shots on net. Bryan Bickell, who started on a line with Kris Versteeg and Brookbank, led the team with six hits in 10:39 and Brent Seabrook led the way with four blocked shots.
Both Toews and Kane skated over 23 minutes in the loss.
Brookbank skated only eight shifts – 4:33 – and spent five minutes in the penalty box after fighting Cody McLeod in the first period.
Colorado won the game with Paul Stastny (back) and PA Parenteau (leg) out of the lineup. The Hawks were without Marian Hossa. Both teams have 16 games remaining on their regular season schedules.
The Hawks are back on the ice against Nashville on Friday night at the United Center.