Preds vs BlackhawksThe defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks visited Bridgestone Arena for the second time this season coming off a win against the Los Angeles Kings. The Nashville Predators came into Tuesday’s game seeking their fourth straight win. After a stellar first period where the Predators seemed to win every battle except for the one on the scoreboard, followed by a second period of fairly sloppy play, including four penalties, Nashville was unable to get back in the game, losing 3-1.

A crowd of 16,219 witnessed what may be some of the most exciting first three minutes of a hockey game this season. Just 1:29 into the first period, Chicago was able to capitalize on a shot by defenseman Duncan Keith. Coming off of Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, Keith let a shot fly from just between the circles, quickly putting the Blackhawks ahead 1-0.

“I try to have a good gap and play well defensively. As a defenseman, I think that is your first and foremost job-how you defend. That’s something I take a lot of pride in and the offense takes care of itself,” said Duncan Keith on his game so far this year.

Just two seconds later on the post-goal faceoff, Marcus Kruger took a penalty, putting the Predators on the power play. After multiple opportunities, Nashville was able to get on the board at 3:03 of the first, when Shea Weber (from Josi & Legwand) ripped an absolute bomb from the top of the faceoff circle, putting it past Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta and tying the game 1-1. Weber’s goal was his eighth of the season, giving him five points (1G – 4A) in five games.

Although Chicago spent some time in the offensive zone, Nashville defended well and did not allow many shot attempts on goaltender Carter Hutton. In what continued to be a special teams battle, Colin Wilson took a holding penalty at 15:36, in which Patrick Kane scored a beautiful goal off his backhand for his 20th goal of the season. With Kane’s goal, he extends his point streak to ten games.

“I kind of got on the post and Kane got it up in a hurry on his back end,” noted Hutton on Kane’s goal. “He’s a pretty skilled player, but if I can make a big save there, then maybe that changes the game.”

Immediately following his goal, Kane took a tripping penalty, but the Predators were not able to convert. Nashville led the Blackhawks in shot attempts at the end of the first 17-10, but unfortunately not on the scoreboard, as they went to the locker room trailing 2-1.

The second period turned out to be the Achilles’ heel for the Nashville Predators, as they took four penalties during the period. Of those four penalties, two were “too many men on the ice.” Although the Blackhawks only converted on one of the power plays, putting the third-ranked power play team multiple opportunities is a game the Predators did not need to play.

Barry Trotz, speaking on the too many men penalties, “To me those are inexcusable penalties to take. You have to watch if you’re replacing the person on the ice and you have to make sure he’s coming to the bench, he can’t be carrying the puck and then you jump on, those are inexcusable.”

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”We have to stop taking dumb penalties.”[/pullquote]

With their first shot on net not coming until 12 minutes remaining in the period, Nashville was unable to generate much offense. Any opportunity in an attempt to swing momentum in another direction misfired. Chicago converted again on the power play at 11:33 while Viktor Stalberg sat in the box for tripping. After a rebound off of a stick, Nick Leddy (Saad & Seabrook) buried the rebound for his fourth of the season. Even with 3:07 of power play time due to a Patrick Sharp hi-sticking penalty to Nick Spaling, the Blackhawks did not allow the Predators many opportunities to get back into the game.  Chicago completely dominated the second period, winning all of the battles and holding the Predators to only four shots on goal. To make matters worse for Nashville, Matt Hendricks was called for interference near the end of the second at 19:30, which led to the Hawks beginning the third period on the power play.

“We took three bad penalties and I think they scored because of one of them. The killers did a great job out there, and they can’t keep the other team off the board forever,” said a frustrated Patric Hornqvist. “We have to stop taking dumb penalties.”

Nashville’s offensive woes continued in the third period. With two power plays, including one to end the game, they were unable to generate many high-percentage scoring opportunities. The Predators only mustered seven shots in the third, and with only three minutes left in the regulation, only had three even-strength shots over the course of the second and third periods. At 18:35, Brent Seabrook took a tripping penalty, allowing Nashville to finish the game with a 6-on-4 power play and Hutton on the bench. As with the majority of the game besides the first period, the Predators were just not able to put pucks in scoring areas, losing 3-1.

In regards to the overall game, Mike Fisher commented, “It felt like we beat ourselves a little bit. In general we didn’t play too badly, we just had some breakdowns.”

Some positives to take away from this match-up would be Nashville’s dominance in faceoffs, winning that battle 34-19. Paul Gaustad was 9 of 11, David Legwand won 13 of 18 and Mike Fisher drew 8 of 12 in the circle. Speaking of Legwand, he now has five points (2G – 3A) in his last four contests. The first period was one where Nashville tallied a season high in shots, firing 17 at Raanta.

Non-hockey notes:

  • Tuesday’s game featured the return of the “Rivals” intro video.
  • The bowl-bound Vanderbilt Commodores football team was in attendance at the game.
  • Following a rousing rendition “Stayin’ Alive,” the crowd was promptly Rick-Rolled.

Videos below include an interview with Ryan Ellis, post-game scrum with Mike Fish and comments from Barry Trotz.