Because the Blackhawks are going to spend another spring watching the postseason on television, the least they can do in the final six weeks of their season is try to entertain their fans as much as possible.
They did that Friday, thoroughly entertaining a small but lively crowd of 11,579 at the United Center despite a 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Markus Naslund, the first shooter, scored on Craig Anderson for the only goal of the tiebreaking session. Vancouver goalie Alex Auld stopped Rene Bourque, Radim Vrbata and Michael Holmqvist.
The Canucks rallied from a three-goal first-period deficit and a two-goal third-period deficit on the strength of three power-play goals.
Hawks fans who remember the rollicking years of the Mike Keenan-era would have felt right at home Friday in a second period that lasted nearly an hour and featured three goals and 78 penalty minutes on 21 combined penalties.
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 8 minutes 38 seconds of the game on two goals from Bourque and one from Matthew Barnaby, the Hawks gave it all back in a parade to the penalty box in the final two periods and had to survive another power play in overtime.
Vancouver cut the lead to 3-2 with goals from Todd Bertuzzi--on a slick between-the-legs move from in front of Anderson--and Anson Carter with the Canucks holding a two-man advantage both times.
Vancouver had a third 5-on-3 power play midway through the second, but the Hawks were able to kill it off, bringing the fans to their feet. They were back on their feet again when Kyle Calder swept a backhand pass from Andy Hilbert past Auld with 14 seconds left in the second to restore a two-goal advantage.
But the Hawks kept the seats in their penalty-box warm in the third and the Canucks took advantage. Henrik Sedin cut the lead to 4-3 midway through the period with Vancouver's third power-play goal while Hilbert was serving a holding penalty.
Brendan Morrison tied the game at 13:04 of the third on a delayed Hawks penalty.
The Hawks a chance to win it in with a power play of their own, but 43 seconds into Carter's tripping penalty, Vrbata was called for goaltender interference. The Hawks ended the night 1-for-9 on their power play.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin said he may be back soon from his sprained knee, adding he feels he will be ready after one full practice. Khabibulin's return could be in one of the four games the Hawks have next week. ... Scouts from New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida and Atlanta were on hand. The trade deadline is next Thursday afternoon.
Vancouver 5, Hawks 4 (Shootout)
At least this loss is a crowd-pleaser
Hawks succumb after penalty-filled game thrills fans
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