Second straight shutout loss drops Blackhawks in 2-0 series hole vs. Predators

Second straight shutout loss drops Blackhawks in 2-0 series hole vs. Predators

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

The Blackhawks didn't get anything in Game 1 against Nashville, but that game was at least palatable. They didn't do a lot, but they didn't give up a lot, either. But in Game 2, with the Predators upping their game, the Blackhawks didn't match. They didn't even come close. And now they're facing one hell of a first-round series hole.

Ryan Ellis scored what would be the game-winning goal in the first period and Pekka Rinne got his second shutout in as many games with 30 stops as the Predators beat the Blackhawks 5-0 on Saturday night. The Predators, who looked as strong as the Blackhawks looked frustrated, take a 2-0 lead back to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday, respectively.

The Blackhawks could take positives out of Game 1. This one? Not so much. It's the second time in franchise history the Blackhawks were shut out in their first two postseason games. The last time it happened was back in 1935.

"That was frustration to a different level. That wasn't fun to watch. Across the board, not too many positives came out of tonight's game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player. We need to get out of this mess and hole. We can play much better than that in all areas, in all aspects. We're a better hockey team than we showed tonight."

Unlike in Game 1, when the Predators seemed content to go into full defense mode after taking a 1-0 lead, they took more initiative on Saturday. The Blackhawks' frustration level grew as the game wore on. Jonathan Toews had five shots on goal, but he and Patrick Kane (four shots) couldn't punch anything through. The two, who were on the same line by the third period, have just one playoff goal combined since the start of the 2016 postseason.

"For sure. It always is," Toews said about the pressure being on he and other top guys. "But I think everyone in this room will take it upon themselves to try to make a difference and try to get our team going with the first goal of the series. I didn't think you'd be saying that three games into the series, but I think we all add a little bit more on ourselves to try and find a way. But again, it's collectively as a team, those little details that'll add up that will translate into those scoring chances that we're looking for."

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On Saturday nothing the Blackhawks did, from line changes to defensive pair changes — prior to the game or in it — worked. Meanwhile the opportunistic Predators fired at every opportunity, coming at the Blackhawks in waves.

Ellis' goal came just after Richard Panik blocked his previous attempt, with Viktor Arvidsson setting the screen in front. In the second period Harry Zolnierczyk, during a bad Blackhawks line change, got separated just enough to beat Corey Crawford for a 2-0 lead. Then Colton Sissons, after Crawford had stopped two previous shots, came in to score for a 3-0 lead 13 minutes into the second.

The Blackhawks had their strongest push in the third period, but they still couldn't capitalize on any opportunities. Meanwhile, Ryan Johansen added his first of the postseason with 6:11 remaining in regulation. Kevin Fiala scored at 18:13 to cap the Predators' scoring.

"It's not good enough, and we have to find a way to beat the neutral zone. That's the No. 1 thing. And be more desperate around the net," Marian Hossa said. "Pretty much, most chances are one and done. I think we can create more than we're showing, and we have to be way better around their goalie."

The Blackhawks have to regroup fast. They had a great road record this regular season, but they'll be facing a Predators team that's up 2-0 and brimming with confidence. This was already looking like a tough series before it started. It's now going to be that much more difficult for the Blackhawks to get back in it.

"One shift at a time. That's how desperate is has to be. A gigantic hole," Quenneville said. "It's going to be a loud building (in Nashville). We have to chip away. We need a goal to start to get the momentum back on our side. Giving up another early goal again tonight didn't help, but baby steps. Be angry."

Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center


Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center

According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks organization dealt with a disturbance off the ice during their 4-3 loss on Friday night to the Winnipeg Jets.

According to authorities, mascot ‘Tommy Hawk’ was attacked by a male fan around 11:15 PM on the United Center concourse.

A video of the incident was spreading on social media and the Chicago Police have since confirmed the disturbance.

No one is in custody as of Saturday evening, though there is a physical description of the alleged attacker.  

A Blackhawks spokesman gave this statement:

We are gathering the facts and will have no further comment at this time, pending our investigation.

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Top guns lead the charge for Jets

The Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL because they're absolutely loaded up front and get their scoring from everywhere. The Blackhawks know this of their Central Division foes and after seeing them for the third time in two weeks.

On Nov. 29, it was Nikolaj Ehlers who had a hat trick. On Tuesday, Kyle Connor had a two-goal night. On Friday, it was Mark Scheifele (two goals, one assist) and Blake Wheeler (three assists) leading the way for the Jets with three-point efforts. The top guys have been a thorn in the Blackhawks' side this season, with Scheifele scoring the game-winner 50 seconds into overtime for their third victory against Chicago in 15 days.

"You can play really well against them for 58 minutes, but it only takes just an instant and then it’s in the back of your net," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That’s something that we gotta learn, to play against those guys and in those situations if you’re going to be able to go head-to-head. A lot of it we were really good, we had let downs and it made it tough for us. But we did a lot of good things."

2. Last-minute goals

In all three periods, there were last-minute goals that changed the flow of the game. 

After the Jets took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks with 10.2 seconds left to even it at 1-1. In the second, Mathieu Perreault scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with 18 seconds remaining to put the Jets back in front 3-2. And then in the third, Erik Gustafsson tied it at 3-3 with 7.5 left to force overtime. 

"It's tough after a loss in overtime, but it felt good," said Gustafsson, who missed the previous two games with an illness. "I didn't know it was 7 seconds left, but it was good to see it go in. ... It was good to be back here with the team, too. I wasn't in the last game. We came out hard the first period and I think we played a solid 60 minutes. Tough break in the overtime."

3. Captain Consistency

Toews usually produces on the scoresheet in spurts. Historically, he'll go through stretches where his offense dries up for several games in a row. And then he'll follow that up by getting really hot. This season has been different.

The Blackhawks captain's longest point drought this year is three games. After scoring two more goals, his season total is up to 16 through 34 games, taking over the team lead from Patrick Kane. He had 20 goals in 74 games last season, showing just how far he's come from a year ago.

Toews is on pace to finish with a career-high 39 goals — his current personal best is 34, set in 2008-09. The Blackhawks need him to continue producing at that rate, and there's no reason he can't.

"Our line played well and created a lot of chances," Toews said. "If it's me scoring or [Dominik Kahun] or [Brandon Saad], it doesn't really matter. As long as we're making plays when we've got the puck out there, we're happy about that."

4. Jets power play stays hot

The best advice when you play the Jets: Stay out of the penalty box. Because they'll make you pay.

Entering Friday, they had the top-ranked power play with a 30.4 percent success rate. The Blackhawks gave them three opportunities and they cashed in on one, giving them eight power-play goals on 17 attempts in their past four games (47.1 percent conversation rate). They also improved to 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) in three games against the Blackhawks.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they killed off two key penalties in the third period before the first TV timeout and it allowed them to keep it a one-goal game and ultimately force overtime by scoring the next goal.

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