Last week coach Trent Yawney was offended when the Blackhawks' power play was described by some as struggling.
It was certainly an appropriate adjective for Thursday's effort, when they failed on nine power-play attempts and even gave up a short-handed goal in a 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
The loss was the second straight for the Hawks on this three-game trip, the last extended one before the Olympic break.
Thursday ended a stretch in which the Hawks played 20 of their first 30 games away from the United Center.
The goal was to get through this stretch at or as close to .500 as possible and make a playoff push with 16 of the next 21 at home.
Instead, the Hawks fell four games below the break-even mark. If there has been one constant in the Hawks' struggles in the first 30 games, it has been the futile power play.
"You have to have a good penalty kill and you have to have a good power play," winger Mathew Barnaby said.
For the third straight game, the Hawks broke out early with a goal as Mark Bell scored 2 minutes 29 seconds into the NHL debut of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. The goal came short-handed, the first of the season for the Hawks, the last team in the NHL to register one.
Things then deteriorated with the Predators, losers of three straight coming in, scoring four unanswered goals. Nashville's second, which gave it a lead it wouldn't relinquish, came after a crushing check by Scott Hartnell on Hawks defenseman Michal Barinka.
Barinka was down and out under the watch of referee Don Koharski as the play turned up ice. Seconds later, Martin Erat scored.
The Hawks believed the play should have been blown dead. But Rule 18(f) states when a player is injured on the ice, "the play shall not be stopped until the injured player's team has secured possession of the puck."
After the game, Koharski said he let the play continue after he saw Barinka try twice to get up.
"He made an attempt to get up," Koharski said. "I saw him look down the ice and there was an odd-man situation. We always give the benefit of the doubt when a team is on the attack."
Koharski said in that situation, if a player had made no movement on the ice--perhaps being unconscious--he would have blown the play dead.
"What blows this situation up is there was a goal scored on the ensuing play," he said. "In my mind it wasn't a serious injury."
Barinka didn't return to the game and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
After Vernon Fiddler roofed a backhander early in the third period to make it 4-1 Nashville, Tyler Arnason and Anton Babchuk scored to make it 4-3.
The Hawks had a chance to tie it when Dan Hamhuis went off for interference at 10:46 of the third. Steve Sullivan collected a Nashville clearing pass at center ice and broke in alone on Craig Anderson.
The short-handed goal was the sixth allowed by the Hawks this season.
So now the Hawks begin what can be termed a make-or-break stretch for their playoff hopes.
"Good isn't going to be good enough," Barnaby said.
"We need great in the next 21 games."
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