At least this will be a record-breaking season for the Blackhawks.
Two nights after posting their most impressive win of the season, the Hawks reverted to the kind of form Saturday that could land them the top pick in this June's draft with a 4-3 loss to Columbus.
The Hawks set a team record with their 17th consecutive road setback, and they have a chance to add significantly to the mark. Saturday was the first of six straight on the road leading into the All-Star Game break.
The Hawks haven't won on the road since Jocelyn Thibault was in goal for a 2-1 victory Nov. 7 in Nashville.
Penaltiessome legit, some dubiouswere the Hawks' downfallSaturday. Columbus had a team-record 13 power plays, converting on two.
"There were a lot of borderline calls," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said of the work by referees Craig Spada and Jay Sharrers.
"It got to be borderline ridiculous. That was the whole difference in the game."
The Blue Jackets used all of the power-play time to build a 4-1 lead that the Hawks trimmed in the final minutes.
Columbus had three power plays in the first period, scored on two of its five second-period man-advantages and had five more third-period chances.
"You have to battle through it, stay with your game plan and kill them off," Hawks defenseman Nathan Dempsey said. "They got two power-play goals, and that was the difference."
The Hawks' penalty-killing unit has moved into the top 10 in the league and had killed off 38 of 41, but two breakdowns in the second period cost them.
"We take a lot of pride in our penalty killing," Dempsey said. "We believe we can kill every one."
Both power-play goals in the second came off the stick of Rick Nash, the league's leading goal-scorer with 30.
Nash, still six months shy of his 20th birthday, has 47 career goals and is closing in on joining Jimmy Carson and Wayne Gretzky as the only players to have 50 before their 20th birthday.
Despite being badly outplayed for the first 25 minutes of the game, the Hawks had a lead. Steve Sullivan scored on a short-handed breakaway at the 3-minute-55-second mark of the second period on what was just the Hawks' sixth shot on goal of the game.
But they went south after that, with Columbus scoring the next four against Craig Anderson. Manny Maholtra and Tyler Wright also scored from the crease when Anderson couldn't control rebounds.
Tuomo Ruutu scored his sixth of the season when he tucked in a rebound to cut the lead to 4-2, and Sullivan brought the Hawks to within a goal when he scored his second with 41 seconds left.
But with all of the penalties, the Hawks weren't able to get into any kind of flow.
Some of their best offensive playerslike Zhamnov and center Tyler Arnasonwere anchored to the bench watching the penalty-killing units.
"Some of the calls were 50-50," said Zhamnov, who played just 15:48, only 7:26 of which came in even-strength situations. "It's tough, especially for me. But that's part of the game."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times