Despite coming out of Game 3 down by one in the series, the Nashville Predators felt they did a pretty good job keeping things even with the Blackhawks a majority of Sunday's game.
Leading into the second period, the Blackhawks and Predators exchanged both quality scoring chances and goals, so much so that the Blackhawks held two separate leads for only a combined 53 seconds before Nashville answered back.
But two more goals from Chicago in the second proved to be the difference-maker; goals the Predators said resulted from puck-management issues on their end.
"Tip the cap to them," defenseman Cody Franson said following Nashville's 4-2 loss. "They played well, they played a fast game all night. A lot of what they got came from us trying to do something a little extra. Not keeping it simple. Puck management's big against these guys. With that amount of skill they have up front, it's paramount to manage the puck well."
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
The Predators arrived in Chicago with a tall task at hand considering their captain and all-star defenseman Shea Weber didn't make the trip after suffering an injury in Game 2.
Prior to Sunday's contest, the Predators went 1-4-2 in the absence of Weber over the last two seasons, allowing 29 goals over the span of seven games.
And in a game where the Blackhawks' top guys were putting on such strong performances — after Andrew Desjardins' opening goal, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each found the back of the net — Weber's absence could be especially felt.
"Any time you lose a guy like [Weber], that's a big loss for us," Franson said. "But we have a good group of guys in here. We've got guys that are very capable and guys that are very bought in to try to pick up that slack and extend our run here as long as possible. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, but a couple small pockets where we didn't manage the puck well and they were able to create some offensive zone time and capitalize on a couple of chances."
Nashville's new makeshift top defensive pairing of Roman Josi and Seth Jones had been on the ice for three of the Blackhawks' four goals, but the Predators said they're still confident they have enough depth to thrive even while Weber is out.
"I thought [the defense] was pretty good," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought we had a pretty good game defensively, there were times I thought they controlled their offensive zone — our defensive zone — that's gonna happen at times. I think you have to hang in there and play defense. I thought our guys did that. Certainly would rather have Shea, but that's not an option."
The Predators were still able to take a lot of positives out of Sunday's game despite the final outcome. They're confident in each others' ability to step up in the absence of Weber and will look to improve their puck management by keeping their game simple moving forward.
Now their focus is on tying the series back up in Game 4.
"We don't want to go home down two and have ourselves in that situation if we can help it," Franson said. "The next game's a big game. There's no right or wrong way to win a playoff series as long as you win it at the end."