Blackhawks' lead in playoff race has quickly evaporated after 1-5-0 road trip

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Charlie Roumeliotis
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Blackhawks' lead in playoff race has quickly evaporated originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After nearly two weeks on the road, the Blackhawks are finally headed back to Chicago. But they're doing so with a sour taste in their mouth.

The Blackhawks were routed by the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-1 on Saturday at Amalie Arena for their fourth consecutive regulation loss, which is a new season-long. They wrapped up their six-game road trip with a 1-5-0 record and were outscored 26-13 over that stretch. 

"We needed a lot more points than we got," Adam Boqvist said. "It was a long road trip, but I think overall we played pretty decent. But against these good teams, you've got to find a way to win every battle, forecheck hard and just put pucks in the net. That’s how you’re going to win games. Obviously, it’s going to be good to go home."

The Blackhawks are especially bitter considering they generated 36 scoring chances, which is their fourth-most in a game this season, and outshot the Lightning 26-17 through two periods. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who tied a franchise record with his 11th straight victory, was lights out yet again, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a save percentage of .968.

"No question, he was a big factor in the game," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We had a lot of chances, especially early. ... But you've got to fight through it.

"As I’ve said before, we’re being tested. It’s been a hard stretch. We haven’t been perfect. There's areas we’d like to have been better in and maybe you end up breaking through when you do that. But we also got to understand we’re playing excellent teams. We've got to regroup and take the day off and come out with one of our best efforts of the year."

The Blackhawks are certainly not satisfied with picking up only two points out of a possible 12 during their season-long road trip. But if there's anything they learned over this stretch, it's that they still have a ways to go before becoming a top team and can't afford to let their guard down at any moment.

"The whole trip, all the teams we've played, when you make mental mistakes or you're just not sharp or your soft in key moments, they score," Colliton said. "They make you pay. We’re working pretty hard for our chances and it’s not coming as easy as sometimes it does. You're going to go through stretches like that, but we’ve been made to suffer for the mistakes we make and we've got to react accordingly."

The Blackhawks went into this road trip with a six-point lead for the No. 4 spot in the Central Division. They're now clinging on by two points, with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a game in hand, right behind them.

The lead has evaporated and the Blackhawks need to get back on track quickly with eight of their next nine games at home.

"We've got to play with some desperation," Alex DeBrincat said. "We were up a lot of points going into this road trip and that lead has dwindled down. We've got to get back to the hockey we were playing when we were doing well, playing desperate and putting pucks in the net. I think that’s it."

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