Fast paced, few rebounds available, net presence, grit, and hustle. In short, it was the type of game the Blackhawks needed to play, and it was Nashville who was seen playing it.
Even though Chicago showed promise in the early goings of their 5-2 loss to the Predators Saturday night it all fell apart early in the second period.
With the score knotted at one, five minutes into the second frame, Nashville’s Kevin Kline looked to dump the puck in on net from center ice only to see it take a couple of bounces on the ice and flutter right past a bewildered Corey Crawford.
“You lose momentum off that kind of goal,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the game, “That was definitely the turning point.”
Kline’s third goal of the year was the first of three straight scored by the Predators in the second, the final of which, a Sergei Kostitsyn wrist shot off a deke that put Crawford sprawling on the ice as the puck fluttered over him, saw number 50 in white pulled in favor of backup Ray Emery, who guided Chicago to 3-1 victory over Florida Friday night.
Marian Hossa did his best to keep Chicago alive, scoring the Hawks only two goals, and extending his point streak to eight games in the futile effort.
“We played well in the first,” Hossa said, “But after the second they just took over.”
The loss drops Chicago to 5th place in the tightly packed Western Conference, and third in the even tighter Central Division, which boasts four teams in the top six spots in the conference, although the Hawks may have lost an even bigger component to their season.
Joel Quenneville called Hart Trophy candidate Jonathan Toews day-to-day with an upper body injury, expressing that he would be re-evaluated and the team would know more tomorrow.
While a blow to the Captain could derail an already fragile line-up, Quenneville finds himself with time on his hands to let Toews heal.
Chicago won’t play again until Tuesday against the same Nashville Predators at the United Center, and from there the Hawks have a week off for the All-Star break before heading out on a three week, nine game, road trip.
Notes: The legend of Andrew Shaw continued to grow Saturday with the rookie recording an assist on Marian Hossa’s first period goal. Ray Emery stopped 5 of 6 shots in relief of Crawford who stopped 13 of 17. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne turned aside 20 of 22.