Thursday, February 24, 2011

Predators Lose a Tough One to Chicago 3-0

The Nashville Predators appeared ready to match up with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night but fell 3-0 at the Bridgestone Arena in front of a sellout crowd of 17,113.

The Predators played a solid game but did not have the ice tilted in their direction. "We had some chances but couldn't find them, " explained Barry Trotz. "There were loose pucks every period that we couldn't get a handle on."

Goals by Tomas Kokecky, Marion Hossa, and an empty netter by Patrick Sharp were all it took for the Hawks to get past the Preds. Cory Crawford stopped all 31 Nashville shots, earning his third shutout of the season.

Pekka Rinne was good enough to win on most nights stopping 22 of 24 Blackhawk shots.

With the win, the Hawks moved into the top eight in the Western Conference playoff race. The loss pushed the Preds into ninth, and out of a playoff position for the first time since January 4. At the end of the game there was six teams with 70 points including the Hawks and the Preds and were spread between fifth and tenth.

As the game started, the Predators came out skating with more purpose and intensity and appeared to have recovered from the third period meltdown on Tuesday. The Hawks managed to take advantage of a Predator defensive breakdown at 17:12 when Kopecky skated into the slot off of the bench on a delayed penalty call. He received the puck from Patrick Shark and put it through the Pred defenders to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.

In spite of the score, the Predators clearly out worked the Hawks during the opening period out shooting then 10-7 but having a wide disparity in the Corsi 23-11.

The Hawks looked like they had scored again at 1:25 into the second period when Ryan Johnson crashed the net and plowed over Rinne. The puck appeared to have trickled into the net but was disallowed on review.

Chicago out shot Nashville 10-9 in the second while the Predators had a slight edge in the Corsi

The third period started with a another defensive breakdown for the Preds at 2:35 when Hossa was able to steal the puck off off a weak pass and get free on a breakaway and put the puck past Rinne to put the Hawks up 2-0.

With 5:59 left in the game Colin Wilson appeared to have scored for the Predators but the goal was immediately blown off for illegal contact with the goalie.

The icing on the cake for Chicago was an empty net goal by Sharp with 31 seconds remaining to end the game 3-0.

The Predators never gave up in the final period, out shooting the Hawks 12-8 and leading the Corsi 27-14.

The loss was particularly frustrating for the Predators as it was the best effort that they have had in a week. "I'm looking at the game and you are not happy with a loss," explained Barry Trotz. "I'm looking at our team and there is; A - a good effort, and B - we had that Predator mentality."

"We've got to find a way to win some hockey games. We've got to give some support to Pekka. He can't shut out everybody, every night."

Rinne was disappointed after the game, "We played well and had some some scoring chances but you have to give credit to them. It's a good team right there."

He continued, "Pretty good is not enough right now. We just need to find a way. I don't know what it is. Maybe it is the second effort both offensively and defensively, but it starts with everybody. We have a strong group here and we just have to stick together."

Jon Blum played his second consecutive strong game and appears to be in a position to play he way off of the blue line. "There's no way I wouldn't play him if he continues to play like that," said Trotz after the game.

Jerred Smithson summed it up well, "They're a lot of good hockey teams out there out there who are battling just like we are. It's going to take everyone's A-game every single night and we've just got to get it done."

The schedule does not get any easier for the Predators as they will leave on Friday to go to Dallas where they will play the Stars in a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday before returning home for a special 2 p.m. start against the Blue Jackets on Sunday.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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