With very little margin for error, the Blackhawks were marginal at best Wednesday night.
The Hawks suffered a devastating blow to their postseason dreams with a 4-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets before a crowd of 14,454 at Nationwide Arena. The defeat kept the Hawks six points out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, and with five games remaining has them in a position where they must win the rest of their games simply to have a chance.
The Hawks' offense was stagnant as it sent 17 shots at Columbus goaltender Fredrik Norrena, who recorded his second shutout of the season—both in his last five starts—and fifth of his career.
"We just never really got into it from the start," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "We've had bad games before, [but] it's frustrating the time of the season we decided to have this one."
Joakim Lindstrom started things offensively for Columbus with a second-period goal and the Blue Jackets broke it open in the third with rookie Clay Wilson's first career goal, a score by David Vyborny and the final goal by Michael Peca.
"Basically, they outworked us most of the night," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "We didn't fight through battles like we could—like we should—and that's the result. [The Blue Jackets] played a heck of a game. They just had a better night than we did."
The Hawks' best scoring opportunity came two minutes into the second period when Rene Bourque broke in alone on Norrena but the goalie stopped his wrist shot. Bourque smashed his stick in pieces over the boards of the Hawks bench, typifying the offense's frustrating night.
"We didn't have very many shots and not too many good scoring chances either," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was a big game. To get as few of shots as we did is frustrating. It was close and then maybe we kind of panicked in the third when they popped a few more in."
The Blue Jackets halted a three-game losing streak and avenged the two previous times the Hawks visited Columbus and came away with lopsided victories.
"The last two times they came in here they embarrassed us in our own building," said the Blue Jackets' Rick Nash, who had an assist Wednesday night. "A division team like that, you don't ever want to see that happen. We answered the bell and I thought it was one of our best games in a while."
Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made 32 saves but saw his season record fall to 20-19-2 as the Hawks were shut out for the fifth time.
"We had a tough time gaining the neutral zone and we, obviously, didn't get enough pucks to the net," Sharp said. "I don't know if it was more [Columbus'] system or just hard work. Either way … it was unacceptable."