OTTAWA, Ontario — Kris Versteeg raced into the offensive zone two-on-one with Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews and rifled a shot past goaltender Craig Anderson that ricocheted off the crossbar and sailed over the glass.
Versteeg put both hands on his head in disbelief at the missed opportunity late in the second period of the Hawks’ 5-3 loss to the Senators on Friday night at the Canadian Tire Centre. It wasn’t the only opportunity the Hawks let slip away — or the last time they were left shaking their heads — as they failed again to clinch a postseason berth and, of more importance, put some distance between themselves and the Avalanche in the Central Division.
It was the Hawks’ third loss in their last four games and they looked dreadful in it, including having Andrew Shaw ejected for spearing Zack Smith as the game deteriorated in the latter minutes. With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Hawks are as out of sync as they have been all season and seemingly can’t string together a full 60-minute effort.
“It’s not one or two guys, it’s throughout,” Toews said. “Everyone seems to be a part of the bad habits that are running contagiously through our lineup. Everyone has to look at themselves and think of what they can bring.”
After a fast start, the Hawks fell into a malaise and found themselves trailing 2-0 after the first intermission and never recovered.
“We had a good first five, 10 minutes of the first period and I don’t know what happened after that,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We were just down a couple of goals and we couldn’t seem to put any past their goaltender. We had a lot of chances, shots and opportunities — we just couldn’t get it done.”
Clarke MacArthur had a goal and two assists while Erik Condra, Cody Ceci, Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris also scored to help Craig Anderson record the victory. Anderson, a Park Ridge native, had a big night as he turned aside 46 shots while allowing scores to Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
Antti Raanta got the start in goal for the Hawks in the second of back-to-back games and suffered the loss as the defense faltered in front of him.
“Way too many quality chances against,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I know we generated a ton offensively but I didn’t like what we gave up defensively more than anything.”
Losses to the Bruins and Senators, respectively, left the Hawks at a standstill in the Central, eight points behind the first-place Blues and just a point ahead of the Avalanche for second and home-ice advantage in a likely first-round postseason series. The Blues and Avs each now have two games in hand.
“We have to play some character hockey and show that we have some experience going through some moments where maybe we’re not getting the bounces so much,” Toews said. “Just stay with it.”