The Chicago Blackhawks dominant stretch of play ended abruptly with an ugly loss over the weekend.
Still with a chance at the Central Division crown, they’ll look to bounce back Monday night when they continue a four-game trip against the lowly Carolina Hurricanes.
The Blackhawks (43-22-6) had won four straight to cap off an 8-1-1 stretch, but stumbled on both ends of the ice in a 4-0 loss to Dallas on Saturday.
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Chicago, which trails division-leading St. Louis by five points with two games in hand, has been shut out in each of its three previous defeats.
"I don’t think we’ve had too many of these games this year," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told the Blackhawks’ official website. "You have at least four or five games like that in an 82-game season. That was just one of those and we just got to move on."
The loss continued a scoring drought for Patrick Sharp, who has only 12 goals this season after netting a team-high 34 in 2013-14. Sharp scored twice in Chicago’s win over San Jose on March 14, but otherwise has been held scoreless in 22 games since Jan. 30.
Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews have been slightly more productive for the Blackhawks as they continue to deal with absence of leading scorer Patrick Kane (fractured clavicle). They combined for 10 points during Chicago’s four-game winning streak, and Toews needs one point to reach 500 for his career.
Coach Joel Quenneville is also on the brink of a milestone, sitting one victory shy of the 750th of his career – a landmark he had hoped to reach Saturday.
"I thought we got outworked," Quenneville said. "Our power play wasn’t very good and the penalty killing wasn’t very good and the team game wasn’t very good. (Dallas) deserved to win."
Corey Crawford had touted a 1.13 goals-against average in his last seven starts prior to Saturday’s defeat, which ranked best in the NHL from Feb. 26-March 17.
He made 27 saves and both Toews and Hossa scored on March 2 in Chicago’s 5-2 win over Carolina (26-35-10), which has since gone 2-4-3. Crawford has won three straight starts against the Hurricanes, allowing two goals in each.
All but eliminated from the playoffs, Carolina trails the second wild-card spot by 22 points with 11 games to play, and lost to the New York Rangers on Saturday 3-2 in a shootout.
Anton Khudobin stopped 27 shots in the loss. He has recorded only one win in his last six starts and owns a 2.77 GAA in that time.
"It would have been nice to have some more looks in the third period," coach Bill Peters said. "But it wasn’t meant to be. It’s been a run of bad luck in the shootout for (Khudobin). We haven’t given him enough support. He’s a solid NHL goaltender."
Cam Ward started in net earlier this month against Chicago, but was pulled in favor of Khudobin after he allowed four goals through two periods.
The Hurricanes expect a better effort against the Blackhawks this time around.
"These are fun games to play," Nathan Gerbe told the Hurricanes’ official website. "You get up for these games. You want to use them as a measuring stick. You know these teams are good. They’re playoff teams."