If Chicago’s hot play keeps up and Nashville gets into the playoffs, Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena may very well have been a Stanley Cup Quarterfinals preview.
In front of 17,122 in Music City, the Preds outshot their opponent once again but came up on the losing side of things as the Blackhawks won, 4-1.
“Oh yeah, everybody’s pissed off,” Josi said. “It’s not fun to lose. You get mad when you lose. You want to change that as quick as possible and win some games. Everybody’s pissed off in the room.”
Nashville has won back-to-back games just once since November 17 and the win gave Chicago its 12th consecutive victory, tying the Florida Panthers for the longest win streak of the 2015-16 NHL season.
The Preds managed 11 shots on goal in the opening frame but turned the puck over quite a bit as well, negating what could have been even more scoring chances. Despite fighting the puck at times, they seemed poised to head into the locker room after 20 minutes tied 0-0 until Filip Forsberg bobbled a pass in the defensive zone that Chicago took advantage of. Artem Anisimov put his slick hands on full display as he dangled around Pekka Rinne in tight for the score with less than 30 seconds remaining.
The next goal was critical as the Hawks, who had won 11 straight coming into the night, would be up 2-0 and carry all the confidence in the world. If the Preds were to tie it, they could gain some momentum and overcome their struggles in the first period. Unfortunately, it was Chicago who would strike. Richard Panik used defenseman Barret Jackman and teammate Dennis Rasmussen driving to the net as a double screen, shielding Rinne from the shot. As a result, the scoreboard read 2-0, visitors.
Nashville responded immediately, however. Just 25 seconds later, Ryan Ellis blasted a shot from the blueline that beat Crawford to cut the deficit in half.
“At the time it was a big goal to get back in that game,” Ellis said. “They’re a team that is playing really well right now. You have got to be on your toes at all times and play. You think you have a shot, you think you have possession and they counter.”
Which is exactly what they did. Moments later, Ellis got caught behind the play resulting in a breakaway for Chicago. The League’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane, broke past Ekholm in the neutral zone, skated in, deked and beat Rinne to re-take the two goal lead.
“I’m on the other side of the ice so I’m hoping for a rebound out or a rim out, whatever,” Ellis said. “That’s how slippery those guys are. That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league and he takes full advantage of it too.”
Andrew Desjardins would add the empty netter to round out the scoring.
“We did not have our ‘A’ game,” Mike Fisher said. “I thought we had too many turnovers in the neutral zone that cost us. They’re good at turning pucks over and going and getting those odd-man rushes and that is what they did. That was the difference.”
The Predators now head out on the road as the NHL takes over Bridgestone Arena and the Music City Center in preparations for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. They’ll visit Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary before the break.
Puck drops on Thursday against the Jets in Manitoba at 7:00pm Central.