After winning an elimination at home for the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators would have to make history again and win against the Chicago Blackhawks to see their first ever Game 7 and keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. However, in what would be an echo of Game 1, the Predators came out to a first period lead that they could not hold onto.
It was a goal filled first period as Nashville came out with an intense start, James Neal opening the scoring only 1:10 into the game. Seth Jones carried the puck into Chicago’s zone and when Niklas Hjalmarsson was unable to clear it out, Neal picked off the puck to skate past two defenders and backhand the shot past Scott Darling.
Neal tallied again at 8:09 in the first when he tipped in a shot from Cody Franson on the Predators’ first power play of the game.
A flurry of goals followed when a Duncan Keith shot missed the net but bounced hard off the end boards to Patrick Sharp who had a near empty net to cut Nashville’s lead to one at 10:37. Nashville regained the two goal lead 39 seconds later when Matt Cullen received a pass from Mike Ribeiro just a step ahead of Chicago defender Keith and dangled the puck into the slot to roof in the third goal on Darling in twelve shots. After being pulled in Game 1 and letting in six goals in Game 2, Corey Crawford came into the game with a chance for redemption.
A trend in the series has been Nashville’s inability to hold a lead and things turned quickly when Neal cross checked Andrew Shaw away from the play and Chicago got right back in the game with a quick conversion on the power play. Nashville was unable to win the faceoff cleanly and after gaining possession, Patrick Kane found Sharp open at the point who had a clear lane and his shot found traffic in front of the net where Jonathan Toews was able to tip it in at 12:14.
With only six seconds remaining in the period, the Blackhawks once again made fast work off the faceoff and Kane sent a perfectly placed shot to complete the comeback and tie the game.
The Blackhawks were strongly in control of the second period, and Pekka Rinne made many quality saves to keep the game tied. The Predators had their chances but at the end of the second, Crawford had stopped all nine shots he faced.
The third period remained a fight for Nashville’s playoff life as Chicago was relentless with offensive pressure. From the second half of the third period, the game was all Blackhawks. With about four minutes remaining in the third period, Chicago had a lengthy shift with multiple scoring chances, and it was all Nashville could do to keep the puck out of the net. The Predators were repeatedly unable to clear the puck and scrambling, and it seemed inevitable that Chicago would make them pay. After another failure to clear the puck, Keith was able to thread a shot through traffic for the game winning goal.
It was a disappointing finish for what was once a promising season, especially in a series where the Predators had two games with multiple goal leads in which they were in control to start the game. Aside from Game 3, in all of Nashville’s losses, they had their chances to win those games, but the Chicago Blackhawks were just able to find a way to edge the Predators. Game 6 would be the same story to end the season for Nashville.