Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney has lamented defensive lapses throughout this season. But it was offensive miscues as much as defensive mistakes that cost the Hawks in the first 20 minutes Friday of a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The loss was the sixth in a row for the Hawks and eighth in their last nine games. Columbus is now five points behind the Hawks for 13th in the Western Conference.
The Blue Jackets, who have their first three-game winning streak all season, took the lead at the three-minute mark when Dan Fritschke got behind Anton Babchuk and beat Craig Anderson after taking a feed from the corner from Geoff Platt.
Anderson made his first start since Dec. 15 in Nashville with Nikolai Khabibulin out with a groin injury.
The Hawks had a golden opportunity to tie the game minutes later when Curtis Brown was alone in the slot. But Brown, who has struggled offensively all season, managed to stickhandle his way into failing to get a shot on goal.
That proved costly when Nikolai Zherdev, who scored a highlight-reel goal against the Hawks on Monday in Columbus, redirected a pass from Ron Hainsey on a 2-on-1 to make it 2-0.
The Hawks thought they had cut the lead in half when Pavel Vorobiev netted a shot at 9:31 of the first, but Vorobiev instead was whistled for interference. It was the first of three occasions on which the Hawks thought they had scored, only to have the referee blow the play dead.
After Rick Nash scored from Zherdev to make it 3-0, the Hawks had a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes when Rostislav Klesla (delay of game) and Cale Hulse (hooking) went off at 14:39 of the first period. In those two minutes the Hawks had one shot on goala 44-foot slap shot from Jaroslav Spacekto run their power-play drought to four of their last 49.
Mark Bell finally scored on a power play early in the second period to make it 3-1, and Martin Lapointe bounced a shot off two Columbus defensemen to make it 3-2 midway through the third.
But despite outshooting the Blue Jackets 43-21, the Hawks couldn't find the equalizer.
Defensive blunders cost the Hawks three goals in the opening period. But offensive bungling and missed chances continue to be just as costly.
The Hawks acquired Radim Vrbata, 24, from the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations. Vrbata has been a healthy scratch in 21 of the Hurricanes' 37 games, including the last 11. In the 16 games Vrbata has played, he has three goals and two assists. Khabibulin said his injured groin felt better Friday, but he won't go to Calgary and Edmonton next week and Yawney said he was doubtful for the next week. Andy Hilbert was a healthy scratch for the second time in the last three games. Defenseman Jassen Cullimore returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a groin injury. Tuomo Ruutu would have to agree to a conditioning stint in Norfolk before the Hawks could send him. Yawney said Ruutu will go with the team to Calgary and Edmonton. Mikhail Yakubov had one goal, two assists and was a minus-2 in his first six games in Norfolk.
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