COLUMBUS, Ohio—With a little less than two minutes remaining in the first period Tuesday night, the lights at Nationwide Arena dimmed to near-complete darkness.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, the lights quickly came back on to expose another unsightly exhibition in a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the season quickly winding down, there have been games in the last week when it appeared as though some Hawks had their minds on their summer vacation plans.
"I don't want to say that, but sometimes it sure looks like it," said goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who was left to fend for himself much of the night.
"We don't get a consistent effort," he said. "We play one period well, one period average. There is no excuse for that, I don't care where we are [in the standings]."
The Blue Jackets' three-goal second period broke open a 1-1 game. Columbus increased its lead to 5-1 before Patrick Sharp tipped in a Jason Williams shot midway through the third period. Rene Bourque had the Hawks' first goal, which tied the game in the first period.
"We made a lot of mistakes and with young defensemen that's going to happen," Hawks coach Denis Savard said.
Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien, called up right before the game, each were minus-2. Barker negated a Hawks power play after Jason Chimera beat him to a loose puck and he was forced to take a hooking penalty.
Martin Havlat went without a goal for his ninth straight game. He had three shots on goal, one in each period, and Savard was asked if he thought Havlat was getting enough scoring opportunities.
"At this level, you have to work to get chances," Savard said. "He's getting plenty of ice time."
Dave Koci was on the ice for the first Columbus goal and for another shift late in the first period. He didn't play the rest of the night, logging only 49 seconds of ice time. Savard said he wasn't blaming Koci for anything and that the game was a "calm" one. One reason why teams want players such as Koci, however, is to disrupt calm games and change the momentum, either with a big hit or a fight. Koci, who was called up March 8, has played only five games but is already third on the team with 72 penalty minutes, trailing Tuomo Ruutu and Brent Seabrook, who each have 89. Koci has earned his minutes in two games, picking up 42 minutes worth of penalties in his NHL debut Oct. 10 in Phoenix and 30 last Friday in Anaheim. Projected over a full season, Koci would amass 1,476 minutes in penalties at his current pace. The Hawks team record is Mike Peluso's 408 in 1991-92 and the NHL record is Dave Schultz's 472 set with Philadelphia in 1974-75. The Hawks recalled Byfuglien to replace captain Adrian Aucoin, who didn't make the trip to be with his wife, Caroline, who gave birth to the couple's fourth child, a boy. Radim Vrbata (wrist) and Peter Bondra (healthy) were also out of the lineup. Playing in only his 10th game as a Hawk, Williams wore an "A" Tuesday, along with Havlat and Martin Lapointe.