By Bob Foltman
Tribune staff reporter
9:16 PM PST, February 17, 2003
It's not working out that way. The Hawks dropped their third straight at home Monday night and ran their winless streak at the United Center to five games with a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
If the Hawks are going to jump into the postseason, they're going to have to turn around their play at home quickly.
"No question," defenseman Nathan Dempsey said. "If you look at our schedule, if we get a good run going at home we can do some damage."
The Hawks wasted an opportunity to pull closer to idle Edmonton in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Hawks still trail the Oilers by three points and the Oilers have two games in hand.
After struggling to score goals for the last month, the Hawks scored enough Monday to win most games but couldn't climb out another early hole.
"We turned over a couple pucks and every time they capitalized on them," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said.
For the second straight game at home the Hawks fell two goals down and couldn't recover.
Lately, the line of Peter Forsberg, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk has carried the scoring load for the Avalanche. But Monday it was the supporting cast that did a lot of the damage for Colorado, which is 10-0-2-1 in its last 13 games.
Radim Vrbata, who entered the game with a serviceable 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists, set up the first two Colorado goals.
Vrbata fed Steven Reinprecht to put the Avalanche on the board midway through the first period. Vrbata then found Tanguay early in the second to begin a seven-goal middle period.
"You always hope you can control the damage if you can in a period like that," Hawks goaltender Jocelyn Thibault said.
Steve Sullivan, fresh off a five-point night Saturday in Columbus, pulled the Hawks to within one with a power-play goal at 5:29 of the second.
With Alex Zhamnov in the penalty box for a penalty on Forsberg, Hejduk took a Forsberg feed and placed a perfect shot over Thibault's shoulder to give the Avalanche another two-goal lead.
Zhamnov redeemed himself with his 11th goal of the year at 8:38 of the second. But Serge Aubin redirected a Rob Blake shot to make it 4-2.
"Every time we got ourselves back in the game, they came down [and scored]," Sutter said.
Steve Thomas became the 72nd player in NHL history to score 400 goals to again pull the Hawks to within one, but Vrbata wristed a shot past Thibault late in the second for his third point.
The Hawks pulled to within one early in the third period. This time, it was Forsberg's turn to take a penalty on Zhamnov, cross-checking him behind the net. On the ensuing power play, Eric Daze scored off a rebound of a Alexander Karpovtsev point to make it 5-4.
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