The Chicago Blackhawks had a chance Thursday to keep pace in the Central Division and pad their lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars. That opportunity went out the window, however, during a second-period meltdown, and the Stars beat the Hawks 5-1 at the United Center.
Nikita Zadorov made a critical turnover in the Hawks’ defensive zone and Duncan Keith’s slip on the ice created another giveaway, and both led to goals in the second period.
The Hawks (41 points) fell further behind the third-place Nashville Predators (45), who beat Detroit on Thursday, and saw their lead over the Stars (38) shrink. But they did not lose any ground to the Blue Jackets (38), who lost to Tampa Bay.
On the positive side for the Hawks, linemates Dominik Kubalik and Vinnie Hinostroza — still fresh off his trade from the Florida Panthers — teamed up on a goal for the second straight game.
Hinostroza assisted on Kubalik’s goal during Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Stars, and during the first period Thursday, Philipp Kurashev helped dig the puck out from a battle on the back wall and Hinostroza fed Kubalik from the below the goal line as Kubalik crashed the net.
Kubalik slipped the puck between Anton Khudobin and the post for his 14th goal of the season. The marker came about five minutes after Roope Hintz opened the scoring with a power-play rebound goal as Hawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen lost his stick.
The second period was all Stars.
During a four-on-four, Zadorov turned the puck over in the Hawks’ own zone and wandered up ice as Jason Robertson closed in on Lankinen. Zadorov tried to recover but it was too late; the Stars’ rookie left winger and Calder Trophy candidate notched his 14th goal.
On the Stars’ third power play, the Hawks’ 28th-ranked penalty kill failed them again. The Stars passed around the perimeter of the box defense, and Miro Heiskanen sniped a shot down the alley between four Hawks defenders.
In the last three games, the Hawks penalty kill yielded has three goals on six opportunities, including two Thursday.
The Hawks were in the offensive zone when Keith took a pass from Hinostroza and backpedaled along the blue line.
But Keith stumbled and as he fell, he tried to push it deeper into the zone, but the Stars’ Andrew Cogliano cut it off and zipped it to Blake Comeau, who bolted on a breakaway with Adam Boqvist trailing.
Comeau roofed it past Lankinen and suddenly the Hawks were down 4-1 with 4:13 left in the second.
After Keith committed another giveaway — this time in the defensive zone — Comeau struck again with a backdoor goal off Hintz’s assist 50 seconds into the third. Hintz had three assists on the night.
Lankinen made 29 saves but gave up the most goals since a six-goal loss to Tampa Bay on March 7.
Khudobin had 38 stops and shut out the Hawks on three power-play opportunities.