Blackhawks blow lead against Hurricanes, return to losing waysBen Popeon November 4, 2021 at 3:51 am

The Hurricanes rallied to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Wednesday. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“[It was] hard to watch it happen, hard to be a part of,” a discouraged coach Jeremy Colliton said after the Hawks’ 4-3 loss Wednesday.

For 32 minutes Wednesday night, the Blackhawks looked like they’d actually turned a corner during Monday’s weight-lifting win.

Then everything reverted back to normal.

The Hawks blew a two-goal lead, squandered eight minutes of third-period power-play time and lost 4-3 to the Hurricanes. The Hawks fell to 1-8-2, the Hurricanes improved to 9-0-0 and all was status quo in the NHL once again.

“[It was a] very disappointing way to lose,” said coach Jeremy Colliton afterward, looking the most discouraged he has yet this season. “It’s a terrible feeling when you put yourselves in a great position [then] give them life, give them momentum, give them their goals.

“We gift-wrapped them an opportunity to get back in the game. [It was] hard to watch it happen, hard to be a part of… We need to understand the difference between winning and losing, and why you win and why you lose.”

After two Alex DeBrincat goals helped the Hawks grab a 3-1 edge, a horribly timed Erik Gustafsson pinch led to a Hurricanes breakaway goal that flipped momentum, and two more strikes 3:09 apart early in the third turned the game for good. The Hawks produced very little during a late four-minute power play.

Colliton had been preaching that results would eventually reflect the Hawks’ recent improvement. Admittedly, they kept Wednesday’s contest far more competitive than their 6-3 beatdown in Carolina last week.

But it still wasn’t good enough, and that’s something the Hawks — who still somehow believe they can “get back in this race,” to use DeBrincat’s words — cannot afford whatsoever.

“We have to be able to lock it down, make simple plays and not beat ourselves,” Seth Jones said. “That’s what you see happening through these first [11] games: We’re beating ourselves.”

“It’s such a wasted opportunity,” Colliton added. “If you’re not extremely upset with what went on, I would question that.”

Outbreak lingers

Just as the Hawks’ COVID-19 outbreak seemed to be ending, the virus threw another wrench in the team’s plans.

Forward Henrik Borgstrom, the last of the five players involved in the team’s initial outbreak, was activated from COVID protocol and participated in morning skate Wednesday. But forward Tyler Johnson (already sidelined with a neck injury) and defenseman Isaak Phillips were shortly thereafter added to COVID protocol for the first time.

Sopel’s thoughts

All summer, Brent Sopel was arguably the most outspoken member of the Hawks’ 2009-10 team regarding the sexual assault cover-up. But when he watched Beach tell his story publicly last week, he broke down and cried.

“Nobody should ever have to go through that,” Sopel told the Sun-Times. “But he’s a hero [for] speaking out to every victim out there. It was an amazing thing what he did.”

Watching the nationwide reaction, Sopel believes that — if another assault somehow happened now in another NHL organization — it would have “a better chance being dealt with today than it did two weeks ago.”

But the league and hockey culture still needs to make a lot of progress.

“Each team having an employee or somebody who [players] can turn to and not worry about the organization getting mad, whether [that’s regarding] drugs and alcohol or abuse,” Sopel said. “All four major sports need to get better — the world needs to get better — [so] that victims can feel like they can come and talk about it. The more victims come and talk about it, hopefully this will happen less and less.”

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