Dylan Strome scored in his return to the lineup, but the Blackhawks weren’t able to generate enough offense against the Lightning and have now lost three straight games.
Hawks Power Play Perfect in First Period
After being kept off the scoreboard on four opportunities in Monday’s loss to the Panthers, the Blackhawks’ power play got on the board early in Thursday’s game against the Lightning.
Mattias Janmark redirected a perfect pass from Dominik Kubalik two minutes into the game and the Blackhawks had the early one-goal lead.
The power play was a result of Tampa Bay’s Barclay Goodrow receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for trying to tempt Connor Murphy into a fight. There is some hostility toward Murphy still after his big hit on Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak in their last meeting.
As for Janmark, the tally marked his tenth goal of the season and his sixth point in as many games. With the trade deadline fast approaching, there has already been speculation about Janmark’s future with the Blackhawks. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and will need a new contract. Whether it comes from the Blackhawks or not has yet to be determined.
With under three minutes left in the opening frame, the Blackhawks’ power play went back to work and scored the team’s second goal of the game.
Dylan Strome, playing in his first game since February 19th, muscled home a rebound on the doorstep for his fifth goal of the season.
Tampa Bay Gonna’ Tampa Bay
The Blackhawks held a one-goal lead for the majority of the first period and limited Tampa Bay to ten shots, but they did surrender two goals in a four-minute stretch.
Kevin Lankinen has been a tremendous surprise for the Blackhawks this season. He has made save after save this season to keep his team in games, but when it comes to Tampa Bay’s first-period goals, he would probably like both of them back.
The first was a wrap-around goal that found its way between his left skate and the post, while the second was a soft backhander from the slot that somehow squeaked through his legs.
The two teams went into the first intermission tied at two.
The second period is one the Blackhawks can be proud of. They were unable to convert on two power play chances, but they also held Tampa Bay to just seven shots and six scoring chances in the period.
Defensively, the Blackhawks controlled the middle of the ice and kept everything to the outside in their own end. Through two periods, they had allowed a total of 17 shots and 13 scoring chances, both well below their season averages.
Third Period Woes
Trailing by one in the third period, the Blackhawks had a difficult time generating anything offensively.
They recorded just five shots on goal in the final frame and were credited with zero high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
They were able to hold Tampa Bay to six shots on goal, a remarkable feat, but the Lightning broke through with the go-ahead goal five minutes in and added another as time expired with Lankinen on the bench.
It goes to show a team of Tampa Bay’s caliber can capitalize on just the smallest mistakes and that is exactly what they did on the game-winning goal. Duncan Keith got caught flat-footed at the Lightning blue line, all three forwards were at the end of their shift, and the Lightning were able to break through the middle of the ice with speed.
It’s the second straight game the Blackhawks have been unable to score a third-period goal and yet another example of the Hawks’ inability to put together a full 60-minute effort.
The Blackhawks lost 4-2 and are now 14-12-5 on the season. They have dropped six of their last nine games and find themselves just two points ahead of Columbus in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division.
Even Strength Scoring An Issue
The power play got back on track in tonight’s loss by scoring two goals on four attempts, but at 5v5 the Blackhawks were held scoreless. In 49 minutes of even-strength play, the Blackhawks registered 16 shots on goal, 17 scoring chances, and eight high-danger chances.
As a team, the Blackhawks have just eight goals at 5v5 in their last five games. If they want to be in the playoff hunt this time next month, they will need to find a way to score more at even strength.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks have Friday off before hitting the ice Saturday to play the back end of their two-game series against the Lightning. Puck drop is set for 3:00 PM CT. Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for further postgame analysis and commentary.