VANCOUVER – “Just when you think” is becoming a familiar saying this season. It fit perfectly for the Blackhawks on Thursday night.
In their last two games, the’d shown some signs of snapping out of a season-long roller coaster with a pair of strong road wins. The last came on Tuesday, when backup goalie Anton Forsberg delivered his best performance of the season in a win at Nashville.
Following the victory over the third-best team in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks headed West to face a Canucks team that was the second-worst. With Forsberg back in goal and some momentum on their side, now figured to be the time for their first three-game winning streak since mid-December.
Yet again, just when you think it’s going to happen this year for the Blackhawks, it didn’t.
Despite an early Chicago lead, Vancouver got the advantage with three-straight goals in the second and early third period in a 4-2 victory Thursday night at Rogers Arena. The defeat drops the Blackhawks five points behind the Avalanche for the last playoff spot after Colorado’s overtime win over the Oilers.
Forsberg, who stopped all but one of the 43 shots he faced against the Predators, was not as sharp facing 21 shots on Thursday. Nick Schmaltz gave the Blackhawks the early lead with his 14th goal of the year, but it disappeared thanks to goals by Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat in the second to make it 2-1.
Daniel Sedin made it 3-1 just under three minutes into the third period but Alex DeBrincat got it back later in third on his 18th goal of the year. But Gaunce’s second goal just under seven minutes later put the game out of reach.
So again, a few strong games by the Blackhawks are followed by a bit of a dud. With 31 games to go, that long winning streak fans have gotten used to in this era of the franchise still continues to escape them.