Four takeaways: Blackhawks claw back but come up short in overtime loss to Predators

Four takeaways: Blackhawks claw back but come up short in overtime loss to Predators

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Clawing back but falling short

Despite falling behind 3-1, the Blackhawks fought back like they often have this season and forced overtime.

Jonathan Toews scored a crucial shorthanded goal with 20 seconds left in the second period, giving the Blackhawks a lift going into the third period. Artem Anisimov potted the equalizer with 2:21 left in regulation thanks to a great feed by Patrick Kane, who finished with two assists for his fifth multi-point outing in seven games.

But the Predators finished the job in overtime when Filip Forsberg, fresh off a line change, took advantage of three tired Chicago defenders to score his second of the night exactly one minute into it.

The Blackhawks have picked up at least a point in 10 of their last 14 games, and haved played well against two of the best Western Conference teams (Calgary and Nashville) and hottest Eastern Conference team (Pittsburgh) in their past three contests.

"We expect even more out of ourselves," Toews said. "We’re playing well, we’re in games. When you get to overtime, we have that feeling that we can get the two points. It’s unfortunate we haven’t gotten it done in our building. We want to get that energy and get that crowd into it and give them something. Just falling short a few times here and there, but overall our team game’s been getting better. For us, we know the expectation’s even higher. We can go for those two points every night.”

2. Falling into old trap?

For the third straight game, the Blackhawks allowed the first goal after they had scored the first one in the previous seven games. It was a good run and a much-needed one too after the Blackhawks went through a tough stretch in November where they gave up the first goal in 11 straight.

But now they have to make sure not to fall into that same trap. Colton Sissons scored first, the Blackhawks eventually responded towards the end of the first period, but the Predators answered right back eight seconds later. The Blackhawks also gave up 17 shots in the opening frame, their third-highest of the season.

Erik Gustafsson, who was on the ice for the first goal and overtime winner for Nashville, was self-critical about his performance and the role he played in those two goals against.

"For myself, I felt I was terrible today," he said. "But the team played well. I think that we can be better in our zone. But for 60 minutes I think we played well."

3. Power play stays hot

The Blackhawks power play is on an absolute roll right now. They've been near the basement of the NHL for a large portion of the first half in that department, but have quickly found themselves flirting with the middle of the pack after their recent hot stretch.

With another power play goal — by Alex DeBrincat, who extended his goal streak to three games — against the Predators, the Blackhawks are now 10-for-29 (34.5 percent) in their last 10 games with the man advantage. They were 13-for-108 (12.0 percent) in their first 36 games of the season.

It's come a long way.

"Obviously [DeBrincat's] been finishing his chances on the power play, which is nice to see," Toews said. "When we’ve got a guy that can shoot like that, a guy that can pass like [Kane], we just have a lot of good things going for our power play right now.”

4. New top line

The Blackhawks made some changes going into Wednesday's game. DeBrincat was promoted to the top line with Dominik Kahun and Toews while Brandon Saad was moved to the third line with Drake Caggiula and David Kampf.

It was time for DeBrincat to get more ice time because he deserves it. He logged 17:01 of ice time, his second-highest since Dec. 16, scored a goal on the power play and recorded a team-high seven shots on goal in the loss.

"I thought we played well," DeBrincat said. "Can definitely be better. Made a few plays, probably could have scored a few more times. There's always room for improvement."

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The Blackhawks' uphill battle 'just sucks', so it's time to spark some optimism

The Blackhawks' uphill battle 'just sucks', so it's time to spark some optimism

Sitting eight points out of the playoffs, with four teams to jump and trade rumors circulating, the Blackhawks just need to feel good. 

It was clear at Fifth Third Arena on Thursday following off-ice work and meetings that the Hawks aren't feeling too hot about where they're at. Truthfully, the vibe could have best been compared to the type of demeanor and commentary you'd witness from players at the conclusion of a season in which they didn't make the playoffs, like the last two.

The Hawks more than likely sealed their non-postseason fate for the third straight year after going 1-4-0 on their recent road trip in Canada.

"I don't know if we're necessarily thinking about playoffs," Chicago forward Ryan Carpenter said. "That's still so many games away. But yeah, we're optimistic in here, we've gone on streaks before. 

"But right now this just sucks, the feeling in the locker room, and losing. No one’s happy in here, including myself, and we've got to find a way to figure it out. [Friday] will be a good chance against a good team in Nashville, and we'll be home and we'll see how we respond."

"It seems like it's been the last couple weeks here where we got off to a bad start on that road trip and it snowballed," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who recorded his 500th NHL assist on Wednesday. "Now that we're home, we've got a big game [Friday]. 

"We're obviously not happy with the last game (6-3 loss to Rangers at home on Wednesday), but we've got to find a way to get out of it and turn the page. I think that's what it comes down to. It comes down to just being better. We know what we have to do. It's just a matter of being consistent at it throughout the course of the game and having a good start."

The Hawks were tied 1-1 with the Rangers after the second period on Wednesday before allowing five third-period goals.

"Well, I don't know," Keith said of the reason behind the collapse in the final frame. "It seemed like they got the one goal and we just got deflated. And again it kind of snowballed from there without much pushback. When we're always chasing – they got the first goal in the game too – and we always felt like we were kind of chasing the whole game. 

"For whatever reason we weren't able to mount much of a comeback. I mean, I think at some point you give the other team some credit. They have some big guys and they hang onto pucks; they don't throw pucks away. 

"They force you to earn the puck back and it didn't seem like there were too many odd-man rushes for us. So those little things that we talk about in our game, when we do those things we're a hard team play against. And when we don't, things like that happen."

Friday the Blackhawks face the Predators, just three points out of the second wild card spot and itching to get in the postseason mix.

"We've faced adversity at different points in the season and this is just another one of those times where we need to really get back together and play the style of game we know we can play and know we can win with," Hawks forward Alex DeBrincat said. "I think that's what we're focused on right now."

The trade deadline rumors and whispers aren't helping the Blackhawks.

"Try to let it go as much as possible," DeBrincat said of how players deal with possibility of them or a teammate leaving. "For us in here, there's not much we can do at this point. 

"We're just trying to go out there and win games; whatever happens, happens. They know what they're doing and for us, we're all together as a team right now, so play as a team and focus on winning.

Regardless of the situation the team is in and no matter who stays or goes, the Hawks need to feel good about themselves and re-establish a high level to play at before things go from bad to worse with the possibility of carrying over into next season.

"We've got to create our own optimism by how we play," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think the feeling in the group is not as good because our performance wasn't good enough last game. Obviously you look at the standings and no one feels good about it. The way we can bring good feelings back is by being really good tonight for 60 minutes."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: The team see change coming before the trade deadline

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: The team see change coming before the trade deadline

As the NHL trade deadline looms closer, the feeling of uncertainty has surrounded the team. In for host Pat Boyle, Slavko Bekovic, Charlie Roumeliotis, Scott King, and Nick Gismondi discuss the feeling around the team and what may lie ahead for the future of this Blackhawks team.

(1:55) - Locker room felt somber today
(7:00) - Concerns about the team not being prepared game to game
(13:20) - Potentially being traded is weighing on the players
(19:00) - Possibility this group stays together
(26:10) - Erik Gustafsson possibly being traded
(30:20) - Teams around the league looking to win now

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.