Hawks wake up too late

Tribune staff reporter

There was a lot not to like about what happened Sunday night at the United Center.

This is a Blackhawks team that sees itself as a factor in the playoffs, and it's still too soon to say it won't happen.

But if the Hawks are going to play next spring, nights like Sunday can't happen many more times, if at all.

Facing a team that had lost its first two games and already had shaken up its roster with a trade four days into the season, the Hawks failed to show up for the first 40 minutes in a 3-2 loss to the previously winless Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We didn't have the jump," winger Matthew Barnaby said. "We knew they were going to come out strong, and we just didn't match them. We have to find out why."

The Hawks finished a season-opening three-game homestand 1-2 and now go on the road for four games in nine days, beginning Tuesday in St. Louis against the winless Blues.

"It's going to be a tough trip," goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin said.

It'll be even tougher if they start games like they did Sunday. The Hawks fell behind early with newly acquired Jason Chimera scoring 4 minutes 31 seconds into his Columbus career. Chimera had a partial breakaway during a delayed Hawks' penalty and beat Khabibulin high to the glove side.

The Hawks tied the game at 15:19 of the first when Pavel Vorobiev scored the first of two goals, taking a feed from Tyler Arnason.

But instead of snapping out of their slumber, the Hawks were dominated in the second period. They were outshot 13-4, and Columbus jumped ahead on goals by former Hawks defenseman Bryan Berard and tough guy Jody Shelley.

Shelley, who now has eight career goals in 200 NHL games, went right around Arnason to the front of the net to put in a rebound off a Berard shot at 8:50 of the second period for his first career game-winner.

"It's surreal," Shelley said. "I don't get too many of those."

Said Hawks coach Yawney: "The first two periods we weren't committed to playing together and to the game plan. I wish I knew [why]."

The Hawks had a much stronger third period, and when Vorobiev scored his second of the night on the power play at 5:32, it looked as though they might be able to salvage something.

But even though the Hawks outshot the Blue Jackets 16-2 in the final 20 minutes, Columbus goaltender Marc Denis came up big to send the Hawks out the road with more questions than answers.

"We were a little inconsistent," Khabibulin said. "It's not discouraging. It's disappointing, that's for sure."

Road trips go a long way toward defining teams, and even though it's only one week into the season, this trip should tell a lot about this Hawks team.

"We're working toward being a good team, and good teams win on the road," Yawney said.

They also win at home against teams they are supposed to beat.

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