By Bob Foltman
Tribune staff reporter
7:40 PM PST, November 29, 2003
If there was a noticeable difference in the finale of the six-game, two-week trip that ended Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Kings it was that the Blackhawks couldn't walk away thinking they deserved more.
"We didn't work hard enough to win," defenseman Nathan Dempsey said.
"When we don't play hard or stick to the systems, we're not going to be very effective," center Scott Nichol said.
The Hawks' winless streak stands at 11 games and is threatening to turn into something mythic: "Where were you when the Hawks last won a game?"
Perhaps if the Hawks hadn't self-destructed in the third period in Vancouver and had won that game instead of losing in overtime, the trip might have taken on an entirely different tone.
As it is, they earned only one point out of a possible 12.
The defeat to Vancouver set in motion a series of gut-wrenching losses and led, ultimately, to a game like Saturday's..
"We have to play hard every night to give ourselves a chance and we can't have any passengers," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said.
"Probably the worst game of the trip was the last."
If hard enough to live on the road for two weeks. But having to end the trip with three games in four nights didn't make things easier.
"That's no excuse," Sutter said. "We had some guys who didn't have their legs, and they were guys we needed."
When one of the better first-period lines features Igor Korolev, Ville Nieminen and Jason Strudwick, it has the makings of a long day.
Sutter reunited Tyler Arnason, Mark Bell and Kyle Calder in San Jose, hoping for a spark. That experiment has fizzled.
"The Arnason line had to be better for us," Sutter said. "The last two or three games they haven't been as good as they should."
The Arnason line was on the ice when the Kings opened the scoring midway through the second period on Brad Chartrand's short-handed goal. Dempsey got pinched in the offensive zone, no one was behind him and the Kings had a 2-on-1 that Chartrand converted.
"The game goes either way in the middle of the second period on the power play," Sutter said. "We kill one and then we're on the power play and we give one up."
When Mike Cammalleri scored the first of his two third-period goals at 5:17, the game essentially was over. He scored again with six minutes remaining.
For a team that went begging for a power-play goal in nearly every game on the trip, it's either fitting or cruel that the only Hawks goal Saturdayby Calder with 1:07 to gocame on a power play.
Too little, far too late.
"It wears on you," Nichol said. "We're the ones in this boat. It's up to us to turn this ship around."
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