Already playing catch-up in the postseason race, about the last thing the Blackhawks needed was to have to do it in a game.
But that's where they found themselves after allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to jump to an early lead Wednesday night in a 3-0 victory before 18,210 at the United Center.
After the Hurricanes scored three times in the first period, the Hawks were unable to come back, and it appears there's little chance they now can come from behind in the playoff race either.
The loss was the Hawks' fourth in a row and dropped their record to 33-31-7. With 11 games remaining, it's looking more and more likely they will miss the postseason for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
Two former Hawks, Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov, figured in the scoring in Carolina's three-goal first period, two of which came on power plays.
"You get those two power-play goals against you, and I think everyone got a little down on the bench," Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. "The rest of the game was pretty tight. We had our chances. It definitely hurts losing these games at home."
Samsonov, whom the Hurricanes picked up Jan. 8 after the Hawks waived him, sent a pass from behind the net to an open Erik Cole, who fired a shot past rookie goaltender Corey Crawford. Then Matt Cullen's goal from in front off a rebound of a Cole shot, also on the power play, gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 advantage.
Ruutu, sent to Carolina in a trade for Andrew Ladd on Feb. 26, picked up an assist by starting a play on which Joe Corvo sprung Eric Staal on a breakaway to make it 3-0. Staal streaked in alone and beat Crawford with a backhand move.
"We had the 3-0 lead in the first period, and after that it was way easier to breathe," Ruutu said. "That was the game plan, to have a good start."
The Hawks couldn't solve Carolina goalie Cam Ward, who in his 10th straight start made 25 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season and the sixth in his career.
"They got two quick power-play goals, and we were chasing the rest of the game," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "Our penalty kill needs to be better. It's tough to come back on a team like Carolina. They're an explosive team, and they can score goals quickly. We just weren't able to beat their goaltender."
It was Crawford's second straight start after making 44 saves in the Hawks' 3-1 loss to the Red Wings on Tuesday night in Detroit. He made 29 saves Wednesday night.
"He has played great," coach Denis Savard said. "He deserves to get in there. He's calm, [and] his quickness is great. He reads the play well.
"We know that next year there's a great chance he's going to be here. That's why (general manager) Dale [Tallon] signed Patrick Lalime for one year, thinking our kid would be able to come up."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times