One team battling for a playoff spot was fired up right from the opening faceoff Sunday.
It wasn't the Blackhawks.
The Calgary Flames scored on their first shot on goal and went on to a 4-2 victory to all but extinguish the Hawks' postseason chances.
With nine games left, the Hawks remain seven points out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot while the Flames moved into sixth, two points ahead of Vancouver, which holds the final position.
"It was all about our start," rookie Jonathan Toews said. "We let them get the upper hand early in the game. Against teams like that this time of year, it's tough to battle back. We didn't play consistent hockey until later in the game, when we had four lines rolling and had one good shift after another. We have to be better early on and carry that through 60 minutes."
Calgary took a 1-0 lead when former Hawk Adrian Aucoin scored on a power play 1 minute 51 seconds into the game. Aucoin fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line that eluded Hawks goaltender Patrick Lalime, who didn't know he was going to play until Sunday morning after scheduled starter rookie Corey Crawford became ill.
The Hawks looked lifeless until the 16:50 mark, when rookie Adam Burish knocked down Eric Nystrom with a big right hand during a fight. That sparked the Hawks and the United Center crowd of 20,717.
Toews tied it 1-1 with a power-play goal at 9:35 on the Hawks' first shot of the game. The center picked up his 20th goal of the season after taking a pass from fellow rookie Patrick Kane and sneaking it between Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and the left post.
Calgary reeled off three straight goals in the second period by Jarome Iginla on a breakaway, Kristian Huselius with a shot over Lalime's left shoulder and Dion Phaneuf's shot from inside the right circle.
"Some of our best players and some of the guys who have been around here the last couple of years didn't have their best games," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "For some reason, some struggled.
"We have to prepare the night before and come ready to play. It can't happen, especially at home."
The third period belonged to Kiprusoff, who came up big by stopping 16 of 17 shots to help hand the Hawks their fourth straight home loss.
"Kiprusoff made some timely saves for them," Savard said. "We had enough chances to get five, six, seven goals. He made some big saves at key times."
Robert Lang's goal at 15:19 of the third cut the deficit to 4-2. Lang poked in a loose puck at Kiprusoff's skates for his 20th of the season, the seventh time in the veteran center's career he has scored at least 20.
The Hawks were unable to solve Kiprusoff the rest of the way despite swarming the net and getting several good scoring chances.
"There were times we were dominating the game as a team and getting chances, and there were times where they were coming," Hawks center Kevyn Adams said. "But they were more opportunistic than us, and that made the difference."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun