Apparently the Blackhawks didn't get the memo: Monday wasn't a holiday for NHL players.
The Hawks appeared to take the night off in a timid 5-1 loss to a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had lost three straight while giving up 19 goals.
The loss was the third in a row for the Hawks, the first time they have lost three straight since their 1-5 West Coast trip in late November.
Despite gaining points in 14 straight games recently, the Hawks have won just twice in their last 10.
It seems long ago now, but after completing three games against the Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks talked about challenging for first place in the Central Division.
With the now first-place St. Louis Blues coming into the United Center on Thursday, followed by a seven-game trip, the Hawks find themselves closer to being out of the playoffs than a division title.
"You're going to have nights where nothing goes your way," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said. "Do I like it? No."
Columbus President/general manager/coach Doug MacLean said Monday morning that his team was facing an opponent that considered itself a Stanley Cup contender.
After Monday's performance, MacLean must be wondering where that opponent was.
Following a script written by the Blues in their 4-2 victory against the Hawks on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets came out with the intention of hitting every Hawk every time one touched the puck.
The wheels came off early on Monday. Any question as to why Tyler Arnason's minutes have dwindled can look at his shift on the first Columbus goal for the answer.
Arnason, who spoiled Marc Denis' shutout with a goal midway through the third period, allowed Sean Pronger to walk in front of the net and put a shot on goalie Jocelyn Thibault. Two shots later, Pronger finally was alone in front of the net to beat Thibault to make it 1-0.
The assists on Pronger's goal went to tough guy Jody Shelley, who now has four points to go along with his 150 penalty minutes, and David Ling, a pesky instigator just called up from the minors and playing his first game of the season.
"They gave us some great shifts," MacLean said. "Great energy, great second efforts."
Steve Sullivan, who has one point in his last 10 games, turned the puck over in the Columbus end three minutes later, then let David Vyborny beat him up ice to finish off a 2-on-1 to make 2-0.
"They didn't have to work too hard for their first two goals," Sutter said.
The rest of the night was stat-padding. Hot shot rookie Rick Nash had his 11th goal to make it 3-0 after one, which gave Thibault the final two periods off.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun