After an awful first period was covered up by a victory in Game One, the Blackhawks waited until the third period to implode in Nashville in Game Two. Corey Crawford had an awful three minutes and the Preds hung a half dozen on the Blackhawks to even the series.
Colin Wilson continued his dominance of the Blackhawks, opening the scoring with a power play goal less than three minutes into the game. Crawford went down too early and Wilson took advantage with a hard, high shot.
This time, however, the Hawks tied the game in the first as Patrick Sharp scored his second in as many postseason games.
But the Hawks relaxed in the final 20 seconds of the period and paid the price, as Roman Josi danced through the “defense” and scored with less than five seconds left in the opening period. Nashville out-shot the Hawks 16-6 in the first period, but a strong effort for a full 20 minutes should have kept the game tied.
The teams exchanged goals in the second period. Patrick Kane tied the game with a beautiful shot that probably should have been waived off; the Hawks appeared to have too many men on the ice when Kane took the puck into the offensive zone. It took less than five minutes for Nashville to regain the lead, though, as Craig Smith put the Preds up 3-2 at 14:54 into the period.
Shea Weber left the game during the second period and did not return for the third. With Weber out, the Preds played to maintain the lead for the first ten minutes of the third period and the Hawks failed to capitalize.
And then the wheels came off.
Crawford failed to control a rebound and Filip Forsberg, who had been fairly quiet in the first five periods of the series, tapped the puck into the net to extend the lead to 4-2.
Less than two minutes later, Smith scored his second of the game to push the lead to 5-2.
Only 32 seconds later, Mike Santorelli scored his first of the playoffs and the lead was an insurmountable 6-2.
What followed was a five minute meltdown. Kris Versteeg threw a reckless elbow into Wilson and went to the box at 17:56. Just 1:21 later, Kimmo Timonen slashed Wilson and joined Versteeg in the box for the game’s final 43 seconds. While Timonen was skating to the box, Andrew Shaw mouthed off at one of the officials and was sent to the showers.
When the dust settled, Nashville out-shot the Hawks 35-26 and took advantage of Chicago’s stupidity down the stretch. Bad passing and mediocre rebound control killed the Hawks in the third period, but all three of the Predators goals in the final frame should have been stopped by Crawford.
If the decision to start Crawford instead of Scott Darling was easy for coach Joel Quenneville before Game Two, this performance should make putting Darling back between the pipes to start Game Three equally simple. Crawford allowed all six goals in the loss, and has not been sharp in four periods of playoff hockey.
Shaw led the team with five hits, but spent two minutes in the penalty box before getting tossed late in the third. Versteeg served two minor penalties in the game, the first of which resulted in Wilson’s goal in the first period and the second of which was wholly unnecessary.
Niklas Hjalmarsson led the team with three blocked shots. Michal Rozsival had another brutal night, doing his goaltender no favors.
Sharp and Kane looked good offensively for most of the game. Kane led the way with six shots on net and Sharp was credited with five, and each scored a goal. Jonathan Toews rebounded from a rough night at the dot to win 15 of 23 faceoffs.
In addition to Darling, Antoine Vermette should be back in the lineup for Sunday afternoon’s game. Versteeg and Shaw both gave Quenneville ample reason to sit them, but Quenneville will undoubtedly keep fans scratching their heads.
The health of Weber, and Mike Fisher, will be significant for Nashville moving forward. Chicago successfully split the first two games on the road, but have plenty of work to do after an ugly Game Two.