By Chris Kuc
Tribune staff reporter
9:00 PM PST, December 9, 2007
"I strongly believe this is going to make us better in the long run," the Hawks' coach said. "It's just going to make us get closer as a team. We're going to have to dig in more and we'll find a way."
The Blackhawks weren't able to find a way to defeat the Calgary Flames on Sunday night as they fell 3-2 before 13,382 at the United Center. The loss was the Hawks' third in a row at home. Still, Savard and the Hawks insist they are playing far better than the results they've been getting.
"Maybe we're trying to do too much by ourselves because of the losing streak we're on," defenseman James Wisniewski said. "We're playing better than the results are coming out, so guys are trying to step up their games individually and maybe trying to do a little too much."
Robert Lang started things off on the right foot for the Hawks when he scored at the 10-minute-50-second mark of the first period to take a 1-0 lead. Lang redirected a pass from Dustin Byfuglien past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff for his ninth goal of the season.
Calgary's Owen Nolan tied it 1-1 at 7:57 of the second period and then the Flames tacked on two more in the third period off deflections that got past Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
Cory Sarich scored at 11:19 when the puck bounced off Hawks defender Magnus Johansson's leg and Daymond Langkow made it 3-1 when his shot from the blue line on a power play was deflected past Khabibulin at 13:52.
The Hawks dominated much of the third, outshooting the Flames 19-10, and Byfuglien's seventh goal of the season on a backhander during a scramble in front of the net at 14:39 cut the lead to 3-2.
Kiprusoff staved off repeated Hawks efforts for the equalizer, including stopping Patrick Sharp from in close just before the final horn.
"The last two [Calgary] goals were tipped," Savard said. "The puck just isn't going our way right now. But we have to find the ways to continue to work and get it done. I like the way we're playing. We have to make our own luck, but it's not about effort. It's not about chances. We're getting a lot of chances [and] we're working."
Kiprusoff was particularly strong midway through the third period when he robbed Sharp of a goal with 14:47 remaining. Rookie Patrick Kane slid a pass to an open Sharp, who sent a shot toward the Flames' goal that Kiprusoff blocked with his shoulder. The Hawks' Lang and Jonathan Toews had strong chances a minute apart four minutes later, but Kiprusoff was up to the task.
"The last three goaltenders we've faced, (Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Kiprusoff), they can put you on a losing streak, all three of them," Savard said.
Khabibulin stopped 26 Calgary shots but saw his record drop to 10-9-2. The defeat dropped the Hawks' record to 14-13-2 and they find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division.
"That's four in a row now," Sharp said. "A couple of one-goal games—it's going to turn around for us. We know we have a good team in here."
One-timersDefenseman Magnus Johansson returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for six straight games and fellow defender Jim Vandermeer was a scratch. "We felt it was time to get him in," Savard said of Johansson. "[And] Jimmy needs to watch a few games here and get his game back on track." Johansson picked up an assist in 14:23 of ice time. ... Veteran forwards Yanic Perreault and Sergei Samsonov were scratched.
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