'Mentally, we weren't ready': Ineffective stretches doom Wings in loss
Chicago — These used to be epic battles.
Not so much anymore, although the Chicago Blackhawks are looking as if they might have one more burst of playoff energy left in them.
They won their seventh consecutive game Sunday, while sending the stumbling Red Wings to their third straight loss, 5-2.
A poor start by the Wings, falling behind 2-0 and it could have been worse if not for goaltender Jonathan Bernier (31 saves), sunk the Wings.
“Brutal start, not nearly good enough,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “As the game went along, halfway in, we started playing with more jam and competitiveness, like we have for the last month.
“But the start, to me mentally, we weren’t ready to go. We gave up more odd-man rushes than we have in a long time. We can’t be a team that spots the other team two goals on the road."
The effort was there, if not the instincts and just plain smart plays.
“It was just our heads,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “We know what to do out there but for some reason, just small little things out there, we have to be better.”
Christoffer Ehn and Nyquist scored for the Wings, who again had too many stretches of ineffective hockey and not capitalizing on offensive chances.
Chicago goaltender Cam Ward made 43 saves, so he was a critical part of the loss for the Wings, as well.
“They’re playing good hockey,” Blashill said. “But everybody in this league plays good hockey. They’ve certainly been hot. But the mental decisions we made were no good.”
Dominik Kahun had two goals, and Dylan Strome, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had the other goals for the Blackhawks.
The Wings (21-28-7) close out this three-game trip Tuesday in Nashville.
Trailing 3-1, the Wings had a power-play opportunity with just over eight minutes left after a Jonathan Toews hooking penalty, but were unable to capitalize.
But Nyquist scored his 14th at 15:30, patiently holding onto the puck near the circle until finally getting Ward down and placing his 14th goal up high.
Nyquist's goal spurred the Wings, who had another fine scoring opportunity by Anthony Mantha in the slot that went wide.
Seconds later, though, Toews found a streaking Kane down the wing, and the still-dangerous Kane blistered his 33rd goal past Bernier at 16:27 to restore the two-goal lead, 4-2.
“We were coming there,” Nyquist said. “But you can’t start the game like that, like we did in the first. Bernie kept us in that game from the start.
“I don’t know why our heads weren’t into it. We made mental mistakes and it cost us in the end.”
Toews then scored an empty-net goal at 17:59 to make it 5-2, his 25th goal.
Kahun restored a two-goal Chicago lead with his second goal, and 11th of the season, at 7:45 of the third period.
Strome found Kahun skating alone through the middle of the ice, and Kahun slipped the puck through Bernier.
“You can’t give up that many outnumbered rushes,” Blashill said. “Bernie was great. It was inexcusable. Not close enough to be good enough.”
The Wings had few opportunities on Ward early, and didn’t crack the scoreboard until late in the second period.
Ehn picked up a loose puck after Danny DeKeyser forced Kane into a turnover along the boards.
Ehn raced up wing, then unleashed a wicked shot from the dot that beat Ward high for Ehn’s second goal.
“It was real good job by DeKeyser stepping up at the line and forcing the turnover,” Ehn said. “I happened to be at the right spot. I was just trying to get it up and it hit stick.”
Chicago took a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
Kahun opened the scoring at 11:04 of the first period, converting on a 3-on-1 rush for his 10th goal.
Kahun shot the puck, which rebounded off the leg of DeKeyser, and he put the puck past Bernier, who had shifted too far to the opposite side.
Strome put Chicago ahead 2-0 at 18:03, and it was the Kahun line again that instigated the damage.
Kahun gathered the puck around the blue line and sped around Niklas Kronwall, then centered the pass to Strome driving to the net.
Strome batted the puck past Bernier, for his 14th goal.