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Blackhawks suffer a blackout
For a team as challenged offensively as the Blackhawks, spotting an opponent an early lead and banking on making a third-period comeback is living life on the edge.
It worked Tuesday night against an inferior opponent, but Thursday night against that same foe was a different story.
For the first time since Oct. 30 in Philadelphia, the Hawks were shut out, falling 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues to split the two-game series played over three days.
The loss dropped the Hawks back below .500 and snapped a four-game winning streak against the Western Conference minnow Blues.
As it has nearly all season, the power play's failures cost the Hawks. They went 0 of 5, including two missed chances in the first five minutes of the third.
St. Louis's first goal came with a two-man-advantage, and the second came just as another Hawks penalty expired.
"That's the difference right there," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said.
After dominating the first 10 minutes with nothing to show for it, the Hawks took a pair of penalties midway through the first period that ended up costing them.
Adrian Aucoin's hooking penalty, followed by Jassen Cullimore shooting the puck into the stands for a delay-of-game penalty, put the Hawks down two men midway through the period.
Lee Stempniak jumped on a rebound of a Bill Guerin shot to beat Nikolai Khabibulin 11 minutes 13 seconds into the game to give the Blues the lead with a power-play goal for the second straight game.
The Hawks had two breakaways in the first period, but Blues goaltender Manny Legace stopped Martin Havlat and Tony Salemelainen.
"It was one of those games where their goaltender played well," Hawks coach Denis Savard said.
The power play has gotten to the point where it is almost indescribable and unwatchable.
"We have to relax," Savard said. "We're fumbling pucks. We have to show more poise. We don't have a lot of confidence as a group."
Unlike Tuesday, when they couldn't build on their lead, the Blues made it a two-goal game 29 seconds into the third period when Dennis Wideman beat Khabibulin with another rebound of a Guerin shot.
Like the first goal, it came with Aucoin just stepping out of the penalty box, serving his second penalty of the night.
The Blues managed 19 shots on goal, compared with the Hawks' 28.
"If you capitalize on your chances, you win," Savard said. "If you don't, the other team wins."
Rene Bourque was sidelined again Thursday with a bruised ankle. Also scratched was defenseman Lasse Kukkonen, who played a season-low 6:28 Tuesday and sat the last 31 minutes after taking his third penalty of the night.
Carl Corazzini played in his second game since being recalled from Norfolk. Corazzini played on a line with center Patrick Sharp and winger Jeff Hamilton.
The Hawks also put Tuomo Ruutu at center with Martin Havlat on his right and Peter Bondra on his left.
Savard said goaltender Patrick Lalime will stay with the team through the weekend instead of beginning his conditioning stint in Norfolk.
St. Louis tied the Los Angeles Kings' record when they held the Hawks scoreless in the first period. It was the 12th consecutive game in which the Blues didn't allow a first-period goal, tying the mark the Kings set in 1974. Current Hawks executive Bob Pulford coached those Kings.