Blackhawks unravel in third period, fall to Predators in Game 5


Blackhawks unravel in third period, fall to Predators in Game 5

NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks entered the third period tied 1-1 with the Nashville Predators, bending a few times but otherwise playing a solid road game.

But in the first three minutes of the third period, sloppiness crept back into the Blackhawks’ game. And against a Predators team that would do anything to extend its postseason, those three minutes proved very costly.

Filip Forsberg had a hat trick and James Neal had a goal and an assist as the Predators beat the Blackhawks, 5-2, at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night. The Blackhawks, who still hold a 3-2 lead in the first-round series, will host the Predators in Game 6 at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Brad Richards scored his first goal of this postseason, as did Kris Versteeg. Scott Darling suffered his first loss of this postseason, allowing four goals on 28 shots. It was a trying third period for all of the Blackhawks, including Darling, but coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t putting the onus on his goaltender.

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“I’m not blaming the goalie,” he said. “An open-side play, another one was a nice play on power-play goal, the other [goal] open side. It’s not the goalie at all.”

Asked if Darling will start Game 6 on Saturday, Quenneville said, “we’ll talk about it but [Darling] did everything right. He’s fine.”

Darling said he was fine after the game.

“You lose games sometimes,” he said. “That’s not how you want to start a period, me or the team. We’re just getting ready for the next game. That’s all there is to it."

The Blackhawks’ defense, however, was not fine to start the third period. The Predators scored three times in the opening three-plus minutes, beginning with James Neal’s wraparound goal 47 seconds into the period. That gave the Predators a 2-1 lead. Colin Wilson, who has been stellar against the Blackhawks, scored his fifth goal of the series — a power-play goal — to put Nashville up 3-1 at 3:02 of the third. Just 12 seconds after that, Forsberg scored his second on an odd-man rush for a 4-1 advantage.

“You feel like you’re in a good position to start the third, being tied at one, and obviously we gave up a quick goal, scored on the power play and faceoff right after. It was pretty quick to get yourself down like that and obviously not the start to the third we wanted,” said Patrick Kane, who assisted on Versteeg’s goal. “I think every goal they had, especially 5-on-5, we pretty much gave to them, either breakdowns or plays that we can’t really let happen.”

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Forsberg added his hat trick-earning goal, an empty-netter, with 11 seconds remaining in regulation.

“It was five minutes they won,” Darling said of the Predators. “And that was the difference.”

The Blackhawks knew they were going to get a fight from the Predators. They didn’t help their cause with shaky defense. Nashville wasn’t going to go quietly, and they capitalized on every error. The ball is back in the Blackhawks’ court and, in two days, their arena. They’re still confident they can close this series out on Saturday but they can’t have the lapses they did on Thursday.

“It’s one of those situations where you definitely want to win Game 6 in our building,” Kane said. “We have a great situation. If you told us we’d be up 3-2 heading back to our building for Game 6 we’d take that at the beginning of the series. We’re still in a great situation. We’ll move on and be ready come Saturday.”



Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

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This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

On Monday, former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner, currently with the Vegas Golden Knights, knelt during the National Anthem with teammate Ryan Reaves before Vegas' round-robin game against the Dallas Stars.

Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson joined Lehner and Reaves in taking a knee.

The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno reported Reaves approached Seguin during pregame warmups to inform him that the Golden Knights teammates intended to kneel during the National Anthem. Seguin told his teammates on Dallas in the locker room and Dickinson wanted to join.

"I made a mistake once, putting a Trump sticker on my mask. That is something I regret now... At the end of the day it's about human rights, not politics," Lehner told the media following the game.

The Golden Knights won the contest 5-3 with Lehner as the starting goalie.

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