Nothing but net.
That’s exactly what Nick Schmaltz was staring at when Patrick Kane hit him with a perfect pass late in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to the Kings on Sunday night at the United Center.
Unfortunately for Schmaltz and the Hawks, he hit nothing but glass on a one-timer from about 15 feet away and goalie Jonathan Quick completely out of position.
“It was a great pass by Kaner and it kind of rolled up on me a little bit, but it’s not an excuse,” Schmaltz said. “I mean I had an open net. Should have buried it.”
The coulda, shoulda, wouldas are starting to add up for the Hawks, now 12-10-5 and tied with Minnesota for fifth place in the Central Division. After a brutal five-games-in-seven-nights stretch, they finally have two days off but face a tough test against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
The Kings’ Christian Folin broke a scoreless tie with 10:31 left in the game with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that beat a screened Anton Forsberg. The Kings went up 2-0 on a power-play goal, and Jonathan Toews made it interesting by scoring with 1:46 left. But another empty-netter with 51 seconds remaining sealed the deal.
Other than the power play (0-for-4) continuing to struggle, the Hawks played a solid game considering they dropped the puck just 16 hours after arriving from Dallas.
“We played some pretty good, steady, patient hockey not giving up too much as the game went along,” Toews said. “And then we wanted to bear down and finish well in the last 20, and it just wasn’t there in the last 10 minutes.”
Forsberg, starting in place of the injured Corey Crawford for a second straight night, turned in another outstanding performance by stopping 21 shots.
Jonathan Quick (24 saves) was good in net for the Kings, but in addition to Schmaltz’s miss, Alex DeBrincat fired wide on a good chance a minute later and Cody Franson rang one off the left post late in the second period.
Schmaltz also looked like he had an easy tap-in on a rebound of a Ryan Hartman shot, but Anze Kopitar hooked him at the last second to prevent the goal.
“I thought I had a wide-open net, but at the last second he kind of got my hands,” Schmaltz said. “That’s the way it goes. It’s obviously frustrating, but you’ve got to keep working and bear down on those opportunities.”
The Hawks then generated nothing on their fourth power-play opportunity. They are 1-for-17 with the man advantage in the last four games.
“Our penalty kill is doing the job and the power play needs to step up,” Toews said. “If we think of the way we want to play 5-on-5 — getting the puck to the weak side of the ice, outmanning them, outworking them … all that’s got to be there.
“We’ve got enough talent to make plays; doesn’t matter who’s on the ice. It’s got to be better than that.”
The first-place Kings improved to 17-8-3, including 10-3-1 on the road, and have won five straight.
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