Saturday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks had been highly anticipated ever since the Predators swept the Blackhawks in last year’s playoffs. There were proud and brave Predators fans at the United Center and fans were going back and forth on twitter about who was better and who would win. The rivalry was alive again.
When the game began, it seemed like the Predators were going to continue their win streak, outshooting the Blackhawks 18-11 with 36 attempted shots in the first period and dominating in possession. Their penalty kill was stellar, killing off all eight penalties and cashing in on the power play as Filip Forsberg collected his fifth goal in as many games on a backhand shot that beat goaltender Corey Crawford.
It was a night full of penalties, with the Predators taking eight and the Blackhawks taking five, which gave Nashville the opportunity to show off their special teams. The Predators are not known for the penalty kill since it’s very hit or miss, but last night they were on the money as they killed off all eight against a dangerous Blackhawks power play. With Forsberg’s league-leading fourth power play goal, they bumped themselves up to third in the league with a 29.2% success rate on the man advantage.
Things were looking good for the Predators until the third period. Their possession went way down and as Predlines’ Andrew Robinson said “You cannot let a team with as many weapons as the Blackhawks have control of the puck like that. They will burn you every time.” The Predators felt that burn when Patrick Sharp scored with less than six minutes left, a goal that has been surrounded by controversy. The goal came as a result of Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman getting into a battle with Matt Irwin in front of the net which ended with Irwin having to defend without his stick. The Blackhawks then claimed victory about five minutes into the overtime period with a goal from Brandon Saad.
Following the game, head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters “[We were] just playing an unbelievable game to that point, and to have it taken away from us like that is ridiculous.” The sentiments from center Colton Sissons were similar, saying “It hurts a little not getting the second point of the two. We did like our game. For a majority of the game, I thought it was our best game of the season.”
Despite the loss, the Predators have shown resilience and won five out of a possible six points in their last three games, a result which is much more promising than their 0-2 start this season. The game against Chicago is something they can build off of and, while there’s work to do, Sissons and the Predators are “definitely feeling better about ourselves and we can continue build off the way we did tonight.”