WORST IN FIRST

Bad start sends team to 14th straight reg­u­lar- sea­son loss in Philadel­phia

Chicago Sun-Times - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - MARK LAZERUS Email: mlazerus@ sun­times. com

SLOW START DOOMS HAWKS, WHO FALL BACK TO . 500

PHILADEL­PHIA — Jonathan Toews al­ways be­lieves.

Just like ev­ery player, he has suf­fered through plenty of in­di­vid­ual slumps — when there are nights you can’t even get any­where near the net, and nights when you can’t cash in Grade- A chances, and nights when you just run into a hot goalie. Ev­ery time it hap­pens, you’ll hear Toews talk about get­ting just one break, just one bounce, just one chance to see the puck in the back of the net. Then it all comes flood­ing back. And, sure enough, it al­most al­ways hap­pens that way.

And while Toews can’t re­mem­ber a time when the en­tire Black­hawks team has been mired in a scor­ing drought like this one, he still be­lieves the goals will come. He has to.

“I mean, what other choice do you got?” he said.

The Hawks lost 3- 1 to the Fly­ers on Thurs­day night, their 14th con­sec­u­tive reg­u­lar- sea­son loss in Philadel­phia ( the 2010 Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal was an ob­vi­ous ex­cep­tion). And it was more of the same for this per­plex­ing, dys­pep­tic start to the sea­son. An­other in­dif­fer­ent start. An­other spir­ited at­tempt at a rally. An­other fu­tile night of of­fense.

The Hawks have only four nonempty- net goals in their last four games. They have scored more than three goals once in their last 14 games.

Con­nor Mur­phy’s sec­ond- pe­riod tally was their first five- on- five goal in more than 186 min­utes — that’s more than three full games worth of hockey.

Lately, it seems that if goal­tender Corey Craw­ford doesn’t steal two points, the Hawks have no chance.

“We gen­er­ated enough chances,” coach Joel Quen­neville said. “That’s the pos­i­tive side tonight. The fin­ish cer­tainly has to be bet­ter.”

The start, too. The Hawks fell be­hind 3- 0 early in the sec­ond pe­riod and spent the rest of the game scram­bling to catch up. Re­mark­ably, they had a chance to do it.

De­spite a first pe­riod that Pat- rick Sharp deemed “em­bar­rass­ing,” de­spite get­ting over­run in tran­si­tion time and again, de­spite too much time spent on the perime­ter and not nearly enough time in Brian El­liott’s face, the Hawks some­how found them­selves in the game late in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Mur­phy had fi­nally, mer­ci­fully, ended the Hawks’ five- on- five goal drought with his first goal in a Hawks uni­form, cut­ting the Fly­ers’ lead to two goals. It was the Hawks’ first goal from a de­fense­man since the third game of the sea­son. A minute later, the Hawks were gifted a whop­ping 1: 44 of five- on- three power play when Ivan Provorov sent the puck over the glass short­handed.

A minute and 44 sec­onds later, the mo­men­tum was gone. So was any real chance of the Hawks ral­ly­ing for an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory.

“It was huge,” Toews said. “You get a 3- 2 game, and we’re off to the races. We put pres­sure on them the rest of the game. It’s not easy to play with a one- goal lead, es­pe­cially if we would’ve scored two.

‘‘ It’s mo­ments like that — we need to feed off the mo­men­tum, and we just couldn’t find a way.”

All three Fly­ers goals came from their dy­namic first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Cou­turier and Jakub Vo­racek, which has com­bined for 23 goals. As for the Hawks’ muchtouted old- school top line of Sharp, Toews and Pa­trick Kane, it lasted less than a pe­riod, with Bran­don Saad re­plac­ing Sharp late in the first.

It was the lat­est in a seem­ingly end­less se­quence of lineup moves by Quen­neville, as he des­per­ately searches for an of­fen­sive spark. The Hawks still be­lieve it’s com­ing. As Toews said, they have no other choice.

“It’s good that we had some chances,” Saad said. “We got bet­ter as the game went along. We’ve just got to keep the faith.”

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ MarkLazerus.

Hawks de­fense­man Dun­can Keith can’t stop Sean Cou­turier from beat­ing goalie Corey Craw­ford in the sec­ond pe­riod. | MATT SLOCUM/ AP

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