Predators staying confident after Game 3 loss to Blackhawks


Predators staying confident after Game 3 loss to Blackhawks

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."

[MORE: Darling stays hot after Game 3 win]

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."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."