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Hawks' loss follows a familiar pattern
If Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames looked familiar, it should.
The Blackhawks have played many games like it this seasonbad start saved only by outstanding goaltending, a goal to get back in the game, but not nearly enough sustained offense and the inevitable defensive breakdown at the end.
With Vancouver's win in Detroit, the Hawks are seven points out of the final playoff spot with four teams ahead of themincluding Calgary. Even though it appears the West isn't as strong this season as in the past, that margin is starting to become a huge obstacle.
After taking three points in the first two games of this five-game trip, the Hawks have dropped the last two and will finish the trip Friday in Edmonton, where the Oilers have the second-best record in the NHL at home, collecting 18 of a possible 22 points.
It took them a while, but the Flames finally made the Hawks pay for their slow start.
Jarome Iginla buried a shot from between the circles past a besieged Nikolai Khabibulin to give Calgary a 1-0 lead at 7 minutes 38 seconds of the first period on Calgary's fourth power play of the game.
Despite being in town for two days and the Flames playing the night before in Edmonton, the Hawks came out sluggish, which Hawks coach Trent Yawney said was a possibility.
"[The Flames] are already in game mode," he said.
The Hawks looked like they were in anything but game mode as Jeff Hamilton, Denis Arkhipov and Radim Vrbata took minor penalties and the bench chipped in for good measure in the first seven minutes of play.
Add a Patrick Sharp defensive-zone turnover and resulting goal from Matthew Lombardi and the Hawks were two goals down after 15 minutes despite another stellar night from Khabibulin.
But the Flames have had as much trouble scoring as the Hawks, so instead of stepping on the gas and blowing the Hawks out, they found themselves in a game 39 seconds later when Tuomo Ruutu flipped a pretty backhander over Miikka Kiprusoff for his third goal in as many games and cut the lead to 2-1.
Carl Corazzini, playing his first game since being called up from Norfolk, picked up an assist and nearly tied the game late in the first but was robbed by Kiprusoff.
That score held until 8:46 of the third, when former Hawk Tony Amonte finished off a long stretch of sustained Calgary pressure with his fifth goal of the year and sixth in 15 games against the team he used to captain.
Iginla added an empty-netter with 37 seconds remaining.
Tony Salmelainen, who has one assist in 13 games and just one shot on goal in each of his last two games, was out of the lineup.
Vrbata was in the lineup after the swelling in his left eye reduced to the point where he could open it. Vrbata took a stick to the eye late in Sunday's game in Vancouver.
Wednesday was the fifth time this season in which the Hawks were off the night before while their opponent played a game. They are now 1-4, with the Oct. 18 game against Montreal as the lone victory. "We have to start taking advantage of those situations, we haven't so far," Yawney said.
What's the best job in hockey? How about being backup goaltender for the Flames? Jamie McLennan has that job and has had to actually "work" in one of the Flames' first 20 games while watching Kiprusoff do the heavy lifting. Not bad for $575,000 a year.