Defense rests at bad time for Hawks

Columbus Blue JacketsChicago BlackhawksDuncan KeithMark BellMartin Lapointe

One of the few bright spots for the Blackhawks this season has been the play of their young defensemen.

But the group, with the possible exception of Dustin Byfuglien, had a collective meltdown in a 5-2 loss Saturday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The loss snapped the Hawks' modest winning streak at two games and extended the Blue Jackets' winning streak to five.

"Our defense was asleep at the wheel," coach Trent Yawney said. "It was probably the worst game they played as a group."

Yawney said there might have been a letdown after Friday's overtime victory in Detroit.

For most of two periods, they were bailed out by the play of goaltender Craig Anderson, who turned aside a handful of point-blank chances from Columbus sniper Rick Nash alone.

But after the Hawks grabbed a 2-1 lead at the 4-minute, 16-second mark of the third period on Kyle Calder's 21st goal, the Blue Jackets took control.

The Blue Jackets scored four goals, including two by Mark Hartigan, who doubled his season output with his first multigoal game of the season.

"They just took the game over," the Hawks' Mark Bell said. "We were on our heels."

Brandon Bochenski opened the scoring with his first goal since being acquired at the trade deadline for Tyler Arnason. Bochenski tapped in a pass from Milan Bartovic at 3:17 of the second for a 1-0 lead.

It looked like the Hawks would carry the lead into the second intermission, but Nikolai Zherdev, who scored a highlight-reel goal against the Hawks earlier in season, fired a wrister through the legs of Duncan Keith and Anderson with 20 seconds left in the second to tie the game 1-1.

Hartigan's first goal came just 33 seconds after Calder gave the Hawks the lead and Jaroslav Balastick beat Anderson 2:01 later to put the Jackets ahead.

With Martin Lapointe serving his third minor penalty of the night for high-sticking, Hartigan potted his second for a two-goal lead.

"Your best players still have to be your best players and they weren't," Yawney said.

Byfuglien ended the game as a minus-two but still showed he might have a future in Chicago if the Hawks can find room for him. He delivered a couple of crunching checks, made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone in which he drew a penalty and showed decent skating ability for someone 6-feet-3-inches, 240 pounds.

"He held his own again," Yawney said. "He's getting better and better and starting to feel his way around the league, which is positive."

One-timers

The night wasn't a total loss, Washington's victory over Ottawa kept the Hawks in the third spot for the draft. … Calder tied his career-high with his 21st goal and extended his scoring streak to nine games. … The Hawks were trying to tie their longest winning streak of the season, which was three games in November. "We've played pretty well the last couple weeks, I thought," Bell said.

rfoltman@tribune.com

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