By Chris Kuc
10:32 PM AKST, February 10, 2012
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Try as they might, the Blackhawks searched for some positives following their seventh consecutive defeat.
"Right now, minutes after another loss, it's tough to look at the bright side of things," captain Jonathan Toews said in the morgue-like atmosphere of the Hawks' dressing room after their 5-3 loss to the Sharks on Friday night at HP Pavilion.
"We played hard out there. We saw some fights, we saw some scratching and clawing, some battling in front of the net and a couple of ugly goals. We played the way we had to. We gave them too many opportunities on the power play and that's how they separated themselves from us in this game. It always seems to be one thing or another but (Friday night) we're getting closer to playing that more complete game."
They aren't nearly close enough as their skid is reaching epic proportions with their ninth loss in a row away from home that dropped their record on the current road trip to 0-4-1.
In a hard-fought contest that had all the intensity and physical play of a postseason game, Justin Braun had a goal and an assist and Benn Ferriero, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle also scored as the Sharks kept the Hawks sliding in front of a crowd of 17,562. Brent Burns added three assists to help San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi earn the victory over his former teammates.
The Hawks got two goals from Marcus Kruger and another from Bryan Bickell but it wasn't enough as they saw their record drop to 29-19-7.
Goalie Corey Crawford suffered his fifth loss in a row as the Sharks took advantage of a strong power play to score three times with a man advantage. The Hawks maintained their sixth-place standing in the Western Conference, but the pack is catching up as the seventh-place Kings are just three points back.
"It seems like every little mistake we make it's biting us and ending up in the net," Hawks winger Marian Hossa said. "We did lots of good things but it seems like right now little mistakes are costing us.
"It's tough times right now but we just need to get out of the slump," Hossa added. "It's tough going through so many losses right now but we know we can win hockey games. We have a good team, we just have to get the confidence back. We believe in each other. The defense has to help out the goalie and our forwards have to help our team. We have to play a team game. We win as a team and we lose as a team."
The Sharks didn't hesitate to finish their checks at every opportunity and seemed intent on playing a physical style against Toews in particular. After a first-period scuffle with Sharks captain Joe Thornton, Toews and the Hawks found themselves down a man and San Jose converted.
"It's a little confusing why we get the extra penalty there," said Toews, who watched from the penalty box while Boyle scored to give San Jose a 2-0 lead. "I'm not sure how many free shots they're allowed to get. Then we come in and defend ourselves and we come out with the extra two minutes. It's pretty frustrating about a couple of calls. At the end of the day not everything is going to go your way that way so we have to be better on the penalty kill."
The Hawks battled back in the second behind Kruger's two goals off rebounds and after Thornton and Bickell exchanged scores, Ferriero scored the game-winner and McGinn ended the scoring.
Defensively the Hawks' positioning was better but the result was the same. The Hawks haven't won a game since Jan. 20 against the Panthers.
"It's beyond frustrating," Hawks winger Jamal Mayers said. "I think we're going to be better off having gone through this. It's tough to feel that way when you're going through it. There were some things creeping in our game that have caught up to us. We did a lot of good things and we're getting back to the way we need to play but we still need to shore up a few areas."
They'll have to do it fast as the Hawks are back in action Saturday night against the Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz.