ELMONT, N.Y. — The relief the Blackhawks briefly enjoyed after snapping their losing streak Saturday was quickly forgotten Sunday.
The Islanders cruised to a 3-0 win, dealing the Hawks their fourth shutout of the season and ninth loss in their last 10 games.
“We started to fall into the trap of forcing things, turning pucks over, and then spent too much time in the ‘D’-zone the rest of the way and that’s exhausting,” coach Luke Richardson said. “[We had] not enough juice to create enough offense. We ran out of gas, both mentally and physically.”
The Islanders’ opening goal — scored midway through the second period — was unusual and seemed to permanently shift the momentum of the game, Richardson said.
The puck slipped underneath goalie Arvid Soderblom’s pad after a shot by Matt Martin and crossed the line, but no one noticed live. It wasn’t until a commercial break — more than two minutes of game time later — that the potential goal was discovered and confirmed after a lengthy review.
Two goals scored 43 seconds apart later in the period deepened the Hawks’ hole, and they mustered very little pushback from then on. Shots on goal favored the Islanders 30-13 over the game’s final 40 minutes.
“[We] didn’t get pucks deep, didn’t get pucks on net,” forward Colin Blackwell said. “A lot of ‘didn’t’s tonight, in my eyes. It’s frustrating. [We were] just not supporting each other across the ice. You can say what you want about that weird goal that was called and turned the page, but we didn’t really respond.”
When Richardson saw defenseman Jack Johnson shooting the puck up the ice Saturday from the right of the Hawks’ bench in Madison Square Garden, he didn’t think he was in any danger.
But he thought wrong. Johnson’s clear deflected off Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey’s stick, into the bench area and directly off the side of Richardson’s head, careening straight up in the air.
Fortunately, Richardson turned out fine after receiving a few stitches — which proved necessary after holding up a towel to his head to stop the bleeding proved less effective. Assistant coach Derek King conveniently handled the line-changing duties during his brief absence.
“It must be a hard head, so I’m lucky I got hit there and not anywhere else,” Richardson joked Sunday. “I guess it’s another lesson learned: keep your eye on the puck at all times.”
The Hawks called up goaltender Jaxson Stauber from the AHL on Sunday to replace Petr Mrazek, who will miss at least a week with the groin injury he suffered Saturday.
When the Hawks had their previous goaltender health crisis in November, Stauber was injured, thus why they signed Dylan Wells. But the 23-year-old rookie out of Providence has since returned and gone 3-2-0 with an .892 save percentage in his first five appearances for Rockford.
Soderblom made 37 saves Sunday while Stauber backed him up. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Soderblom start again Tuesday against the Devils.
Meanwhile, Alex Stalock’s timeline for returning from his concussion remains unclear. It didn’t go well when he briefly resumed practicing a couple weeks back; the Hawks’ new plan is to have him soon start working out in the gym but not yet on the ice, Richardson said.
Reese Johnson fought Islanders forward Casey Cizikas, who concussed Stalock back on Nov. 1, early in Sunday’s game in a lengthy and clearly preplanned bout.