With an opportunity to go up 3-1 in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators shot blanks in a 3-0 loss in the Bridgestone Arena. The series is now tied at two and heading back to Chicago.
The Predators knew that Chicago would come out with desperation and intensity, and early on, the Predators matched the effort of the Blackhawks. The tide of momentum would swing to the Blackhawks at 10:57 of the first period as the Hawks went on the power play with Francis Buillon in the box for interference. Just :10 seconds into the power play, the Hawks would tally as they swarmed the net and overwhelmed Pekka Rinne and the Nashville defense. Patrick Sharp would bat the puck out of the air into the net after several stops by Rinne. The score came when Rinne stopped a shot by Jonathan Toews, but the rebound off his shoulder spun into the air. Sharp, at the top of the crease, was able to knock the puck past Rinne for a 1-0 Chicago lead.
The Predators generated some chances, but as in game 2, they could not finish. Chicago netminder Antti Niemi made some good stops, but more importantly for Chicago in this contest, the defense thwarted good entry into the offensive zone by the Predators and never let the offense set up efficiently. When the Predators got scoring opportunities, they could not finish.
The Predators had an opportunity to get back into the game with nearly two minutes of 5 on three power play time in the first period. They generated some chances, but could not solve Niemi, and the two man advantage was short circuited 1:07 in when David Legwand was called for goalie interference. For the night, the Predator power play was ineffective, going 0 for 5.
In the second period, Chicago tallied again when Marian Hossa took a shot that Rinne could not control and Jonathan Toews knocked in the rebound at 12:55 of the second. Patrick Sharp would tally his second goal as he beat Rinne with a wrister at 16:17 of the period.
With the 3-0 lead, the Blackhawks spent the rest of the game choking the life out of the Predators. As the Predators did on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks controlled play in the neutral zone and prevented the Predators from setting up their offense. The net result was a shutout for Niemi, even though both teams totaled 30 shots on goal. Unfortunately for the Predators, the offense did not generate many quality chances tonight and di not sufficently pressure the Hawks D or Niemi.
Tonight, the top offensive players for the Predators were non-existent. J.P. Dumont was moved to the top line in place of Colin Wilson after the first period, but it failed to produce any offensive pop. It is time for Arnott to show up in this series. Captain, you are without a point, and the team needs you to step up.
When you look at this game, you see three breakdowns that wound up in the back of the net. Otherwise, this team played a very good Blackhawk team evenly for the rest of the game. Take solace in that fact. Take comfort in the fact that Chicago cannot out work us and cannot beat us physically. Be aware that a team that was a Stanley Cup favorite is overjoyed to be tied with us at two games apiece.
This was a big game for the Predators. They came up short. The most important thing for the Predators now is to have, as Head Coach Barry Trotz said, short memories. Forget about this game. Be prepared to go to war in Chicago and take back the momentum in this series.
This game proved to the Predators that they have to bring the maximum effort every shift, every game. Tonight, that did not happen.
Learn from this, and be prepared to bring it Saturday.
The pundits will say that it is just a matter of time before the Blackhawks dispose of the Predators.
Screw the pundits.
The next game is the time to show what you are made of, to show the hockey world your heart and character
Time to claw your way back into the lead..
It's time to show them Predator hockey.