The Chicago Blackhawks must treat every game with a sense of urgency, just to maintain their faint chances at a playoff spot.
They did that Monday with a 7-1 home victory over Arizona. And they will need to do it again Wednesday when they meet the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
"Right now, we just know that with the meaning of these points and these games, every game is going to be tough," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "The playoffs have already started, if you ask me."
The Maple Leafs have a different problem. They are playoff bound and showed no urgency at all Monday night in their 6-2 home loss to the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We were no good," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "They were better than us from start to finish, won more battles, more races, and just had more jump. We looked like a lethargic group right from the get go. We didn't have any energy right through our whole group. Didn't skate well. Didn't execute well. Weren't good."
The Maple Leafs' second goal of the game came with five seconds left.
Brendan Perlini scored a hat trick for the Blackhawks against the Coyotes, who traded him to Chicago in November. He has scored six goals in the past five games.
The Blackhawks can be encouraged heading into the game Wednesday that they usually improve their play against the better teams in the league.
"You raise your level when you know if you don't play well you get embarrassed," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It forces you to get motivation by fear. But I think we need to relish the challenge, relish the opportunity to play in big games."
Another positive for the Blackhawks is the return to form of goaltender Corey Crawford, who missed two months with a concussion. He made 26 saves in the 2-1 win over Dallas on Saturday after giving up 13 goals in his first three games back. He made 24 saves against Arizona.
"Happy for him," Colliton said. "He's so under control. Nothing bothers him. That's important for our team. Obviously, he's had a lot of success, and part of why he's so good is he's unflappable in there. He helps us."
As for the Maple Leafs, Babcock gave his team a day off from practice Tuesday to "get our energy level up."
"We were going to take an off day Thursday," Babcock said. "We just changed that and we'll take the off day (Tuesday) to get ourselves regrouped and back on track."
The Maple Leafs went 2-0-1 on a Western Canada trip that ended Saturday.
The Maple Leafs could meet the Lightning at some point in the playoffs.
"I think it was a good measuring stick for us," Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said. "That's a veteran team. They obviously came out hungry. There's a reason that they're the best team in the league all year, so we just didn't come ready to play. Despite bad bounces they still beat us in every area of the ice."
The Maple Leafs were without Kasperi Kapanen on Monday. He was a late scratch because of an illness.
Toronto won the only meeting this season between the teams, 7-6 in overtime at Chicago Oct. 7.
--Field Level Media
Blackhawks face Maple Leafs with sense of urgency
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