Their best scoring chances came early, surges from the Chicago Blackhawks’ top players that kept Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne busy.
But then those opportunities dissipated. Then Nashville got the lead. And once the Predators went into shutdown mode, the Blackhawks looked powerless to do anything against it.
Mike Fisher had the eventual game-winner and the Blackhawks’ power play was anything but in the Blackhawks’ 2-0 loss to Nashville on Sunday night. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Chicago, which was shut out for the second time this season (Phoenix beat it 2-0 prior to the Olympic break).
Brandon Saad returned after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks were still without Bryan Bickell (upper body), who is questionable for Tuesday’s game, Michal Rozsival (lower body) and, of course Patrick Kane (left leg).
Corey Crawford allowed two goals on 17 shots in the loss.
In terms of effort, coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t nearly as angry with this loss as he was the March 14 meeting, when the Blackhawks got two goals in an otherwise forgettable 3-2 defeat. Still, the opportunities were there, especially early, and the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize.
“We had a good start and a couple great looks at the net,” he said. “We missed the net and missed the opportunities and they score first. What happened after that is exactly what happened the other day: they get the lead, they go into a check-fest and they checked well.”
Indeed, Fisher’s goal proved to be a dagger, a redirect off a Ryan Ellis shot with 1:22 remaining in the first period. Gabriel Bourque added insurance late in the second period.
Sure, Rinne is a good goaltender, and he was sharp in stopping all 29 shots he saw on Sunday. And the Predators helped their goaltender with 17 blocked shots. Still, the Blackhawks felt they could’ve done more to make Rinne’s night tougher.
“We had a few chances. But against a goalie like that we need to think real simple and shoot everything and have guys in front of the net,” Duncan Keith said. “I think we passed up some shots and when we did shoot he saw a lot of the pucks.”
Then there’s the power play, which is now 0-for-9 over the past two games. The Blackhawks’ best opportunity was when Eric Nystrom went to the box for a double-minor roughing early in the second period. But the Blackhawks couldn’t muster anything over those four minutes. The Blackhawks admit they’re missing Kane, especially on the advantage. But, as Quenneville said, “somebody else gets a great opportunity.”
The Blackhawks don’t have as sour of a taste in their mouths after this loss to the Predators, at least in terms of effort. But a loss is a loss and not collecting points is not collecting points, just like the last time.
“We had effort. But it’s a frustrating start with that goal being scored,” Quenneville said. “You have to have patience with this team and have to win ugly. Scoring chances are always at a premium. When you’re behind it really compounds things against you and you have to force things and (the Predators) do a good job of keeping you to the outside, preventing you from getting to the net. Manufacturing is tough. But the start was when we had the good looks and we missed some good chances. They could’ve made a difference.”