Having to face red-hot goaltender Roberto Luongo was tough enough for the Blackhawks, but throw in a slow start and it spelled disaster.
The Hawks came out sluggish in the first period and Luongo was just strong enough to allow the Vancouver Canucks to grind out a 3-2 victory Wednesday night before a crowd of 12,444 at the United Center. The loss snapped the Hawks' home winning streak at five games and dropped their overall record to 14-11-2.
"We were playing at the end of our sticks [in the first period] and not taking the body and that cost us the game right there," said Martin Lapointe, who scored the Hawks' first goal and his first of the season in the opening period. "Those two points were ready to be had and we just didn't take advantage of that. We played for half a game and that's not enough in this league."
Luongo, who shut out the Hawks in Vancouver on Nov. 25 and was the NHL's second star for the month of November, made 25 saves to record his 13th victory of the season.
"He's a world-class goaltender but he's not unbeatable," Lapointe said. "We saw that on my goal. I give credit to [Adam] Burish and [Colin] Fraser—those guys paid the price and that's why we scored. We had to do that more against a big goalie like that. There's no secret, there has to be traffic in front of a good goalie."
With the Hawks trailing 1-0 on a Mattias Ohlund goal at the 7 minute, 24 second mark of the first, Burish and Fraser provided traffic and Lapointe sent a wrist shot from between the circles that Luongo juggled before it got past him at 14:43. The goal broke a 31-game goal-less streak dating back to March 30 for Lapointe.
Byron Ritchie's goal with :38 remaining in the first gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead. Ritchie sent the puck toward the Hawks net from behind the goal, it hit off goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and trickled in.
Martin Havlat's power-play goal at 9:01 of the second tied it 2-2. With Brendan Morrison sent off for hooking and the Hawks' Tuomo Ruutu in front of the net, Havlat fired the puck from the goal line, banking it off Canucks defenseman Sami Salo and past Luongo for his third goal of the season. Havlat, who also hit the post while the Hawks were short-handed early in the second period, had a team-high five shots on goal.
The Canucks got the game-winner when Morrison sent a slap shot from between the circles that deflected off Hawks defenseman Andrei Zyuzin's pad and past Khabibulin at 3:11 of the third.
The Hawks had opportunities to gain at least a point, but finished 1-for-6 with a man advantage.
"Our power play could have made a difference," Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski said. "We have to bear down a little bit more, make better decisions on the play."
Despite out-shooting Vancouver 11-7 in the first period, the Hawks and head coach Denis Savard weren't pleased with their effort to start the game.
"I didn't like our start," said Savard, who's team hadn't played since Saturday. "If our start had been as good as it has been here at home the last couple of weeks we would have been OK. You have to play 60 minutes in this league, you can't play 40."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun