Make no mistake, mistakes hurt Hawks

Tribune staff reporter

The defensive miscues appear glaring and out of the norm.

But Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter says mistakes happen every game. The only difference lately is that every mistake seems to cost the Hawks a game.

A couple of defensive blunders and some carelessness with the puck in the neutral zone cost the Hawks again Sunday as they squandered a two-goal lead and fell 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens.

The loss extended the Hawks' winless streak to a season-high six games with one more to play—Thursday night at Boston—before the All-Star break.

"You score three goals on the road, that should be enough," Sutter said.

But Sunday was the second consecutive game in which the Hawks scored three goals on the road, and it wasn't enough.

The game-winner, by Jan Bulis at the 9-minute mark of the third period, encapsulated the Hawks' defensive woes.

Three players swarmed Oleg Petrov to the left of the Hawks' net when Doug Gilmour had the puck behind the net. While the Hawks blanketed Petrov, Bulis was left by his lonesome to beat goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.

"It's a game of mistakes," Sutter said. "Sometimes you make them and they cost you. It does make it painfully clear that you can't make them at all."

For the most part, Thibault has been the safety valve for whatever defensive lapses happen in front of him. But with Thibault joining his mates in a funk, there is no one to bail out blown assignments.

"I have to be better," Thibault said. "It's one of those times when it's not good enough."

The Hawks again jumped out to a strong first period, taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Chris Simon and Alex Zhamnov. The first goal came on a beautiful move by Simon around defenseman Patrice Brisebois, the second from a point shot on the power play.

But Zhamnov got the Canadiens going with a careless play six minutes into the second period. While going off for a line charge, Zhamnov sent a pass back to his defense instead of getting the puck deep into the offensive end.

The pass missed Nathan Dempsey and the Hawks were under immediate pressure. Eventually, newly acquired Niklas Sundstrom scored to make it 2-1 and off came the wheels.

The Canadiens outmanned Steve Thomas along the boards with Dempsey watching before Andrei Markov sent a shot through a screen to tie the game, and Richard Zednik scored two minutes later on a power play to put Montreal in front.

Meanwhile, the Hawks weren't putting much pressure on Jose Theodore. Only the Florida Panthers have given up more shots on goal than Montreal this season, yet the Hawks managed just 19 Sunday—the fewest allowed this season by the Canadiens.

Like Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Hawks tied the game early in the third on a goal by Tyler Arnason before Bulis' winner.

"Little mistakes that probably earlier in the year wouldn't have cost us are costing us," Thibault said.

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