Even with Anisimov back, Blackhawks offense gets nothing going vs Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) makes a save as Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks for a rebound in the first period Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Not even the return of one of their best scoring threats nor the injury to one of their opponent’s regular contributors could snap the Blackhawks out of a recent funk.

Once again, a United Center crowd leaves the stadium wondering what the future of this group may hold.

For the second time in their last three games, the Blackhawks failed to find the net against the Lightning despite peppering the goal with 40 shots over the course of 60 minutes. Andrei Vasilevski stopped every one of them and Tampa Bay snuck a pair past Jeff Glass in a 2-0 win over their hosts on Monday night.

They did so after getting the news today that forward Ondrej Palat would miss the next six-to-eight weeks. Still they managed to come up with their 32nd victory of the year and pass Vegas for the overall points lead in the NHL.

Meanwhile the Blackhawks’ loss, coupled with a victory by the Colorado Avalanche, puts them seven points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference playoff race. While still two months away, the standings watch is getting a little more grim as the losing ways continue.

It’s now four losses in five games for the Blackhawks, including two after a five-day break that many hoped would allow them a chance to collect themselves during an up-and-down first half of the season. During the four-game stretch their offense has been an issue, scoring over two goals just once in the stretch against the Islanders who finished with seven on Saturday in a lopsided win.

The Blackhawks got two goals in a win over the Jets last Friday and were shut out twice, including Monday night. Making matters worse was the team’s struggling power play, which yielded a short-handed goal in the second period as Chris Kunitz provided the game-winning goal in the final three minutes of the period. Glass (29 saves) kept the Blackhawks in it till late in the third when Yanni Gourde gave the Lightning some insurance with the second goal of the night with 1:34 to go.

For the final 94 seconds, the Blackhawks tried to break up the shutout but to no avail. Another disappointing effort leaving fans wondering when the team might finally turn it around.