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.”

[MORE: Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews named Selke finalist]

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.”



Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”