Scott Darling was hung out to dry, the Blackhawks sleepwalked through the first period, and Pekka Rinne was fantastic. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 24 games, but the Hawks fell to the Predators 5-1.
The Predators got out to a hot start as Darling made 10 saves in the first 5:30 of the game before the Blackhawks could even manage some possession time in the other end. Then at 6:54 of the first period, James Neal undressed Niklas Hjalmarsson at the blueline and deked one past Darling for a 1-0 lead.
Andrew Shaw tried to inject some energy into his team 8:34 in by engaging in some pugilism with one of Chicago's least favorite rivals, Barret Jackman. While that probably did nothing to change the momentum of the game, there weren't many hardcore fans who didn't enjoy watching Jackman getting his face punched.
Some more shoddy defense lead to goals by Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg within a minute of each other around the 16-minute mark, and the Blackhawks finished the first period down 3-0, getting outshot 18-7. Andrew Desjardins exchanged punches with Paul Gaustad as time expired and it seemed like nothing would ever be good again.
The Blackhawks put up a better effort in the second period, outshooting the Predators 13-8. Artemi Panarin apparently suffered an injury eleven minutes into the frame and did not return until the beginning of the third period. Kane and Shaw had some good looks, but Rinne turned them away and the score remained.
Kane set up Panarin with a sweet backdoor pass about two minutes into the the third period, but Rinne stood tall as the Predators defense cleared the crease. Then about four minutes later, Kane extended his point streak to 24 games by crashing the net on a Duncan Keith point shot and finding a loose puck under Rinne's pads for his 18th of the year.
Neal scored again with five minutes left on a 2-on-1 rush after a giveaway at the blueline by Kane. Eric Nystrom added an empty net goal while shorthanded with just over a minute left while shorthanded to bring the score to a 5-1 final.
The bad news is that the Blackhawks fell back into a wild card position with the divisional loss. The good news is that they don't have a whole lot of time to stew over a poor performance as they face another divisional foe in the Winnipeg Jets Friday night at 7:30 at the United Center.
ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS
Terrible First Ten Minutes
The Predators came with a ferocious forecheck and the Blackhawks could not survive the first ten minutes of the game. There was plenty of blame to go around the locker room as Hawks looked slow, gave the puck away too much, and could not break out of their zone. It would be hard to fault Darling for the three early tallies he gave up. He had no help and if it wasn't for him, this game wouldn't have even been competitive.
Q's Blender Broken?
Joel Quenneville usually changes up his lines when the Blackhawks go 50 minutes without scoring, but Q held his lines intact throughout tonight's contest. You wouldn't blame him if he did after a lousy first period, but maybe Quenneville saw enough in the second period to keep plugging away with the lineup he started with. Many fans have always wanted Q to stop tinkering so much. Perhaps this is a sign that he would rather allow some chemistry to develop rather than change things on the fly at this point of the season.
Rundblad: Not Bad
While it would be hard to heap praise on any of the Blackhawks defensemen after this game, David Rundblad played marginally better than he did in his first game back Tuesday.
Stop throwing things at me.
Quenneville had him out there for 16:40. That's generally a sign that Q felt Rundblad's play was at least adequate. Or maybe I'm wrong and Quenneville just rolled his d-pairs to keep them fresh for another game tomorrow night.