DENVER – The sight of starting goaltender Corey Crawford leaving the ice after being yanked in the first period against the Avalanche wasn’t how the Blackhawks envisioned starting their seven-game, 13-day trip.
Worse yet was seeing one of their key players, Bryan Bickell, limp to the dressing room after suffering an apparent left leg injury. Linked with the absence of Marian Hossa to a lower-body injury, it all added up to a disastrous 5-1 defeat at the skates and sticks of the Avalanche on Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.
“It was a tough game right from the start,” Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “I thought we gave a good push-back in the second period. We had some chances but we just couldn’t capitalize. Their ‘D’ did a good job of limiting second opportunities and taking passing lanes away.”
Paul Stastny had a goal and an assist, while Gabriel Landeskog, John Mitchell, PA Parenteau and Cody McLeod also scored for the Avalanche, who snapped a three-game losing skid.
The Avs put a three-spot on Crawford in the opening period, the first score coming off a wacky bounce off the end boards that landed in the slot for Stastny to bury.
“A couple maybe unlucky breaks, and we got behind the 8-Ball,” Hawks winger Kris Versteeg said. “I thought we actually carried the play for most of the game. Just a couple of … mistakes and it ends up in your net.”
After Landeskog and Mitchell made it three goals on seven shots against Crawford, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had seen enough and replaced the starting netminder with Antti Raanta. The rookie, who was recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Sunday to replace the injured Nikolai Khabibulin, allowed two goals on 16 shots in his NHL debut.
Netminder Semyon Varlamov was stingy against the NHL’s top scoring team, allowing only Brandon Saad’s third-period score while stopping 36 shots. Patrick Kane notched an assist on his 25th birthday, but this was the Hawks’ first game this season when the offense didn’t generate at least two goals.
The defending Stanley Cup champions fell for the second time in their last three games as the Avalanche again took it them in their first appearance in the high altitude of the season.
“We gave them the first couple of goals,” Quenneville said. “We had the puck and it ended up in our net. We couldn’t buy a goal there. I would have liked to have seen the momentum change in the second period with the extended time in their end (but we) had nothing to show for it.”