CHICAGO — Yes, the Blackhawks have been here before.
But no, it isn’t making things any easier.
Numerologists would likely be intrigued by the fact that, in their third Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2010, the Blackhawks have now lost Game 3 all three times: in 2010, they fell at home to Philly; in 2013, they lost at TD Garden in Boston and this year, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Bolts at the United Center.
But this time, there’s a bit of a different feeling at play.
“Two games we had the lead, but short-lived both times,” ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said following Monday’s defeat. “Two tough losses in a row.”
Blown leads have become a staple of this series. The Lightning have frittered away first-period leads (they’ve had one in all three games), while Chicago blows leads quickly. In Game 2, the ‘Hawks had a 2-1 lead that lasted all of 1:32 and tonight, their advantage held up for exactly 13 seconds before Ondrej Palat canceled Brandon Saad’s third-period tally.
Palat’s gut-punch was the first of two absorbed by Chicago in the final frame. The second came courtesy Cedric Paquette’s late marker with just over three minutes remaining.
“It’s frustrating,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews explained. “A lot of things we did today gave us the feeling we were going to come out on top with the effort we gave. It was just a couple of little bad habits that ended up hurting us.
“We are responsible for that, but I think this game could have been similar to the way we stole Game 1 from them. I feel like we had a lot of chances, especially early in the game. Late in the game, we gave up those odd-man rushes. We’ve been talking about that and they ended up in the back of the net.”
For Toews, his frustration likely extends beyond the result. He’s now gone three straight game without scoring a goal — this after scoring five over the last four games of the Western Conference Final — and has just one point to show through 180 minutes against the Bolts.
For Corey Crawford, the frustration stems from the same thing Quenneville lamented — dropping consecutive games the ‘Hawks felt they could’ve won.
“Tough loss,” he said. “I thought we played well. Frustrating, for sure.”