After all of the hype and build-up to the 2015 Winter Classic, the Chicago Blackhawks leave Washington, D.C., with zero points and a disappointing loss to the Capitals. With Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in the box for holding, former Hawk Troy Brouwer scored the winning goal with 12.9 seconds left in regulation.
“I don’t know how much that play deserved a call there,” Toews said of the penalty. “How much (the penalty) had to do with us getting a few more opportunities on the power play previously in the game. They got their bounce they were looking for 12 seconds or so left and we walk away with nothing.”
While Toews did not agree with the penalty that left Chicago short-handed, his team’s troubles started much earlier in the game when, for the third time in three games, they fell behind early in the first period.
“Getting down a goal or two never helps,” Blackhawks winger Ben Smith said. “So, when we were really streaking there, we were getting leads, you know, going up 1 or 2-nothing in the first period. And it’s a lot easier to play when you have that lead. That’s something that we need to work on it, improve on and try and find a way to start faster and find ways to try and play with leads.”
Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville, however, brushed aside any concerns that the Hawks, who have allowed nine first-period goals in four games, are struggling at the starts of their games.
“I still think we’re ready to play and we usually play the right way,” he said. “I just think that at the end of the first we might have had more chances than them, too. So, I think it’s a trend that before we were having trouble scoring in the second period and now we’re giving them up in the first. I think that, over time, I don’t think too much has changed in how we approach it or how we’re playing.”
Quenneville believed that Chicago’s failure on their two-man advantage in the second period was a much bigger problem than a slow start.
“Well, that was – to me that’s always – you don’t score on five-on-threes, you generally don’t win and that ended up being the result,” he said.
While Brouwer’s buzzer-beating goal still stings, the Hawks must put the disappointment behind them and prepare for their Sunday night game against the Dallas Stars.
“It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, but in a couple days it’s back to our normal routine,” Toews said. “We’ll be ready for that. So, it’s unfortunate we got that break at the end.”
Quenneville had a slightly more optimistic view than his captain.
“It’s a fun process, it was a great experience,” he said. “I think that we could have left here with a point, we would have been a lot happier with the whole build-up and the whole thrill and experience. The fans were great. They’re just a little happier than we are today.”
Aside from losing the game, the Hawks may lose forward Kris Versteeg, who left the game in the third period, for a significant period of time.
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Quenneville said. “But we’ll see. He could be out for a bit, but we’ll know more tomorrow. Upper body.”
Eric Fehr, the hero of Washington’s 2011 Winter Classic win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, broke in alone on Crawford to put the Caps ahead 7:01 into the first period.
Ovechkin flew through traffic to bang Mike Green’s rebound past Corey Crawford at 11:58 of the first period.
Patrick Sharp cut the Caps lead in half with a goal just seven seconds into the Hawks first power play of the game.
The Capitals lost a chance to extend their lead when Ovechkin rang a shot off the post at the start of the second period.
Brandon Saad tallied the equalizer for Chicago, tapping a cross-slot pass from Jonathan Toews past Holtby at 3:15 of the middle frame.
Caps fans erupted into applause when the Blackhawks failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period.
“To me, that was the tipping point of the game,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said.
Braden Holtby agreed that killing the two-man advantage was a big moment for his team.
“I think when you see a moment like that, a five-on-three at that time of the game, the guys that do kill in those situations really take a huge pride in knowing that that can turn a game, and a month, around,” he said.
In the third period, the teams traded chances – and fruitless power plays – before Jonathan Toews took a holding penalty at 18:47 of the third period.
The Caps cashed in with 12.9 seconds left in the game to win 3-2.