DENVER — On the same night the NHL's highest-scoring team got its most potent weapon back, the offense couldn't get going.
Patrick Kane returned to the Blackhawks on Thursday night after missing two games with a right high-ankle sprain, but the second-year winger's presence wasn't enough to help the Hawks avoid a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.
The Hawks, playing the second of a three-game trip, had their two-game winning streak snapped. Their fourth loss in the last 15 games dropped their record to 10-7-3 away from home and 22-9-7 overall.
The Avalanche got stellar goaltending from Andrew Raycroft (43 saves) and took advantage of a bizarre third-period faceoff that led to Wojtek Wolski's game-winning power-play goal.
With the game tied 1-1 midway through the third period, the teams lined up for a faceoff in the Hawks' zone. With Colorado's Philippe Dupuis at the dot waiting for the Hawks' Patrick Sharp to join him, the linesman dropped the puck, and Colorado took it to launch an attack during which Matt Walker committed a hooking penalty. Wojtek scored off a scramble in front during the ensuing power play.
"You can't justify that play they made to get the power play," an incensed Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "That was totally unacceptable. It was a homer drop, and I haven't seen that in four years. We weren't even in the faceoff circle, not even close to it."
The Avalanche opened the scoring 5 minutes 10 seconds into the game on Ryan Smyth's goal. Brian Campbell's power-play goal for the Hawks at 5:16 of the second tied it 1-1. With teammate Jonathan Toews providing traffic in front, Campbell's shot from the top of the right circle sailed past Raycroft.
"Those are games we have to find a way to win," Campbell said. "We've been finding a way to win all season, and that's the frustrating part that we didn't … get a point and carry that to overtime or score one late."
Kane was credited with his 25th assist of the season on Campbell's goal.
"We had a lot of chances," Kane said. "[Raycroft] made some big saves. Toward the end of the game it seemed like we couldn't really hit the net. It's a team we should beat, we know it. It's tough to lose a game like that."
Kane said his ankle "felt pretty good out there. It's one of those things where you have to play and not really worry about the injury. Once I overcame that, I felt a lot better out there."
Nikolai Khabibulin was solid in goal for the Hawks with 30 saves, but it was Raycroft who stole the show as he held off the Hawks' flurry of chances down the stretch.
"If you are going to win in this league most nights, you are going to have to make one or two [saves] that look like steal saves, but sometimes they are easier than others," Raycroft said. "You need a little bit of luck too. [Chicago] had some chances they missed, and that was the difference."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun