On Thursday night, the Blackhawks allowed one goal in the first period and then Nashville got defensive. Chicago out-shot Nashville 23-9 over the final 40 minutes, but couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.
On Saturday night, the Blackhawks allowed one goal in the first period. Nashville didn’t follow the same script, however.
Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t like what he saw in Game One, so he made a couple lineup changes. Dennis Rasmussen replaced John Hayden, and Vinnie Hinostroza was a late addition in place of Jordin Tootoo.
At 3:44 into the first, Richard Panik blocked a Ryan Ellis shot right back to Ellis, who unloaded from the point a second time. The second shot was screened by both Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Hartman, and beat Corey Crawford to get the Preds on the board.
The Hawks got a power play late in the first but did absolutely nothing with it.
Then the first period came to a close, Chicago was once again trailing. Nashville out-shot the Hawks 12-7 in the first; they out-shot Chicago 11-6 in Game One.
Harry Zolnierczyk doubled the lead 2:51 into the second, beating Johnny Oduya badly. The Hawks got another power play seven minutes into the second and pissed that one away, too. When Colton Sissons tapped in a loose puck to make the score 3-0 the wheels were completely off for the Blackhawks.
Things were bad enough that Patrick Kane took a dumb penalty for whacking Zolnierczyk in the face with 1:27 left in the second.
When the dust settled after 40 minutes, Nashville had a 22-21 shot advantage. The visitors had won 23 of 42 faceoffs and had blocked 11 shots. The Preds were controlling the puck and still out-hitting the Hawks 34-23.
Quenneville had his line blender working overtime in the second period, but nothing worked.
Chicago opened the third period with the nuclear option engaged. Panarin, Toews and Kane were together, and Quenneville put Schmaltz and Hossa with Anisimov. For 10 minutes he was skating Rasmussen with Kruger and Panik and then Kero took Rasmussen’s place.
Kero set up Kruger for the Hawks’ best look at the mid-point of the third but Kruger shot the puck into Rinne’s chest.
The Predators turned the Blackhawks into nothing more than a dump-and-chase team. With 6:09 left in regulation, Crawford left a rebound about ten feet in front of himself while the Hawks changed in front of him. TvR was late arriving and Ryan Johansen took advantage, sprinting to the puck and tipping home Nashville’s fourth of the game.
With four minutes left, the Hawks lost their cool. A scrum in front of the net ended up with Seabrook on top of Johansen and then off to the box for roughing. Kevin Fiala scored after the Hawks killed the power play to extend the lead to 5-0.
Hartman ran Craig Smith into the boards and cross-checked him in the head with a minute left in regulation, getting an early trip to the showers and Nashville’s bench understandably upset. They finished regulation with another power play.
Another ugly loss at the United Center to open a playoff season that began with hopes of another deep run. And, with zero goals in 120 minutes of play to begin the series, it feels a lot like the Hawks series against Detroit in 2013.
The Hawks head to Nashville down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series as the top seed in the Western Conference.