The Predators were without two key players, defenseman Shea Weber and forward Mike Fisher. Fisher suffered a lower body injury in the second period of game one. Weber was forced out of game two after suffering a lower body injury of his own. Weber was hurt when he was on the receiving end of a hit along the boards. Weber didn’t travel to Chicago, but Fisher made the trip and is listed as day-to-day.
The Predators had another decent start in the game. Taylor Beck drew a holding penalty on Kimmo Timonen just 53 seconds into the game, where the Predators could have set the tone of the game. The power play units couldn’t get the job done, not even registering a shot on goal. The Predators did continue the physical play from the first two games of the series. They added another 53 hits to their total. The Predators had chances, but couldn’t seem to solve Scott Darling.
Andrew Desjardins gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the series 14:48 into the first period, but the lead lasted just 31 seconds. Craig Smith dumped the puck into the Blackhawks zone, Filip Forsberg retrieved the puck, passed it over to Smith. Smith found a wide open Mike Ribeiro, who beat Darling to tie the game at one goal a piece. The goal came off of a bad line change by the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks came out and scored early in the second period on a goal by Jonathan Toews, but Mattias Ekholm responded for the Predators with a goal just 22 seconds later. Ribeiro won the offensive zone face off back to Smith, who found Ryan Ellis at the point. Ellis played catch at the blue line and eventually found a wide open Ekholm, who took the shot from the point and beat Darling because of plenty of traffic in front provided by Forsberg. The Blackhawks would score two more goals in the second period to make it 4-2. The Predators allowed three goals on 10 shots in the second period, and have been outscored 18-4 in the second period in the last 10 games played.
The Predators continued to get into the offensive zone, but couldn’t get sustained pressure. They would get the puck in the zone, get a shot on Darling, but wouldn’t be able to get the second chance opportunities. Darling would either kick the rebound to the corner, cover up, or a Blackhawks player would be there to clear the zone. The defense was still playing and being aggressive in the offensive zone even without Weber. On the goal by Brandon Saad to make it 3-2 Blackhawks, Seth Jones went down low and Colin Wilson rotated back to the point, but had trouble handling a pass, and Saad stole the puck, skated up ice and eventually scored a goal. The top defense pairing of Roman Josi and Jones was a combined minus six, each being on the ice for three of the four goals scored by the Blackhawks.
Pekka Rinne has allowed at least four goals for the fourth time in seven goals. The Predators defense seemed to back up at the blue line, instead of standing up, allowing the Blackhawks easy entry into the offensive zone. It seemed like the Predators were making mistakes with the puck that they didn’t make the first two games of the series. One positive for the Predators was that they did a pretty good job of not letting Patrick Kane near the puck. Kane had zero points and two shots on goal in 15:29 of ice time.
If the Predators want to bounce back in game four, then they’ll have to tighten up on defense, not make as many mistakes with the puck and figure out a way to straighten out the second period woes.