CALGARY—This is what happens when the margin of error is reduced to zero.
When the object is not to score more than the other team but to hope to just give up fewer.
What happens, and what has happened regularly this season, is what happened Saturday night.
The Blackhawks lost 2-1 to the Calgary Flames on a goal by former Hawk Dean McAmmond with 49 seconds left. The victory extended the Flames' winning streak to a season-high three games. And the Hawks are now winless in their last eight games, including the first three on this six-game trip.
Hawks coach Brian Sutter broke down the winning goal, pinning the blame on a poor defensive effort by the forwards on the ice.
"Our centerman didn't come back real hard," he said.
Winger Steve Sullivan tried to clear the zone off the glassa standard play for this teamand failed, then had a wipeout that took him out of the play. McAmmond skated to the front of the net, got goalie Craig Anderson down to the ice and tucked home the game-winner.
"Bad mistake right there," Sullivan said.
Anderson said he wouldn't have played McAmmond's shot any differently. "It's heartbreaking," he said. "We worked so hard throughout the game."
This is what happens, though, when one of the most productive centers on the teamBrett McLeanplays just 13 seconds of five-on-five hockey in the first period, while Igor Korolev, scoreless in six games, plays nearly three minutes more at even strength.
"He was on the ice for the winning goal," Sutter said of McLean, the center who failed to come back hard enough.
This also is what happens when perhaps a team's best overall player and certainly its best passer, Tuomo Ruutu, plays not with finishers but with bangers Korolev and Ryan VandenBussche.
"He was excellent, outstanding," Sutter said.
Ruutu played perhaps his best game of the season with nothing to show for it.
Through two periods, which included four power plays and a two-man advantage for 91 seconds, the Hawks had 13 shots. Alexander Karpovtsev, with no goals all season, played three minutes of the eight the Hawks were up a man.
Mark Bell, one of the few players in double-figure points with 12 and with four goals, didn't play a second of the power play the entire game.
The Hawks came into the game averaging less than two goals a game, and they didn't threaten that average Saturday.
And Saturday is what happens when the margin of error is reduced to zero.