NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Blackhawks got a good look on Tuesday of how dangerous the Nashville Predators can be.
That night, they got enough on their end to get a victory. On Thursday, they didn’t even come close to matching the Predators in intensity, energy or production.
Patrick Kane scored to extend his point streak to a franchise-best 24 games but the Blackhawks were otherwise underwhelming in a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. It was a disappointing night for the Blackhawks, who were coming off two victories in which they looked like they were developing chemistry and playing their usual style.
And their first 20 minutes may have been their most forgettable of the season.
“That was an ugly start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They blitzed us right off the bat and we didn’t have a response to it. Maybe woke up in the second period, but that was hard to watch, that first 20 minutes. That’s as ugly as I’ve ever seen us play. It was worse than the first period of the first playoff game here last year.”
In that game the Blackhawks came roaring back. In this one they weren’t really close to doing that. Scott Darling stopped 29 of 33 shots, facing 18 from the Predators in the first period. Andrew Shaw was one of the better players for the Blackhawks, bringing the net-front presence and drive they were otherwise lacking.
“Yeah, Shawzie was the one guy who left it out there,” Quenneville said. “I liked what he did and what he brought.”
Shaw had some of the Blackhawks’ better scoring chances and tried to bring some energy with his first-period fight against the sizeable Barret Jackman.
“Long overdue and I felt like that was the best opportunity to get it started, hopefully spark something with the boys,” Shaw said.
But it didn’t.
The one bright spot was Kane extending his point streak. Pekka Rinne thought he had control of Duncan Keith’s shot but Marcus Kruger pushed the puck and Kane knocked it in, with Rinne arguing to officials. The official review, however, showed the puck was loose and Kane’s goal, his 18th of the season, stood.
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The Predators, meanwhile, were energetic and strong from the start. By the time the Blackhawks got their first shot on goal of the game – Jonathan Toews 5:32 into it – the Predators had 10 on Darling. Nashville broke through about seven minutes into this one, with James Neal beating Darling five-hole for the first of two times on the night. Craig Smith added his sixth of the season at the 15:56 mark and just 37 seconds after that Filip Forsberg put the Predators up 3-0.
“Disappointing for sure,” Shaw said of that start. “We let them get the lead, put ourselves behind the eight-ball and that’s a tough team to climb back against a 3-0 deficit.”
Neal then added his second goal with 5:05 remaining in regulation and Eric Nystrom scored an empty-net, short-handed goal with 1:14 left in the game.
The Blackhawks looked pretty good in their last two games. They knew what the Predators would bring on their home ice on Thursday night. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks still weren’t ready at the start.
“It’s a good hockey team,” Quenneville said of the Predators. “There [are] no easy nights. You’ve got to be ready to start, you’ve got to have some energy and enthusiasm and purpose right off the bat. We didn’t have much going in any of these areas and they were all over us. We couldn’t make anything. We did nothing right.”