The Blackhawks faced off against the Predators on Monday night in the first of a three-game series, fighting to keep their playoffs playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately, those postseason dreams are fading fast as the Blackhawks lost 5-2 to the Predators and slipped to four points back for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs.
As in four of the last five meetings between these two teams, the Predators struck first, this time off a returning Matt Duchene goal 6:22 into the first period. Matt Benning’s point shot double-deflected off Erik Haula and then Duchene to put the Predators up 1-0.
Alex DeBrincat evened the score with 4:46 remaining in the first while Chicago was on the power play. After a Patrick Kane shot rebounded to Pius Suter, the rookie sent a backhand pass to DeBrincat across the crease for an easy tap-in goal.
Wyatt Kalynuk was unfortunately injured early in period after taking a hit along the boards and did not return.
After a fairly even first period, the Blackhawks were in hot water quick in the second as the Predators scored twice in 51 seconds within the first six minutes.
First, Mikael Granlund fed Calle Jarnkrok from below the goal line to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. The Blackhawks were unable to suppress the Predators cycle on the shift at all.
Next, Mattias Ekholm doubled the Predators’ lead after scoring on a breakaway following an interception of a Duncan Keith pass near the blue line.
The Blackhawks would get one back just over halfway through the period after David Kampf scored to end his 49-game goal drought. After a few rebound chances from newly acquired Adam Gaudette and Kampf, it would be Kampf to finally bury one behind Juuse Saros.
Unfortunately, the Predators scored twice in quick succession during the opening minute of the third period after some loss of coverage that left Predators players alone in front of the net.
First, Tanner Jeannot — which is a real name apparently — deflected a puck past Lankinen just 23 seconds into the third period to give the Predators back their two-goal lead. It’s a bit unfortunate that Connor Murphy had to go to the bench after losing his helmet and it was his man that ultimately scored.
NHL Video Highlight - Tanner Jeannot scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 4-2. pic.twitter.com/tKX3ixqNJn— Chicago Blackhawks Game Bot (@BHawksGameBot) April 20, 2021
Next, the Predators scored off another deflection as Luke Kunin redirected a pass from Mikael Granlund behind Lankinen and the Predators to put the Predators up 5-2. That would be the end of the night for Lankinen.
NHL Video Highlight - Luke Kunin scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 5-2. pic.twitter.com/Cm5OwDELLY— Chicago Blackhawks Game Bot (@BHawksGameBot) April 20, 2021
Despite some pushback from the Blackhawks in the final 19:19 of the period, the Blackhawks still fell 5-2 to the Predators. These two teams unfortunately meet two more time in a row. Ugh.
- The good news is that the Blackhawks never gave up even after going down two goals against in the second period, and they ended the period with 63.64 percent of the shot share and expected goals share. If not for Saros, it probably would have been a tie game going into the final frame.
- The bad news is that every issue the Blackhawks have had this season was on display in this game: major turnovers, failed zone exits, and blown coverages that led to opposing players all alone in front. They were committed by veterans like Keith and De Haan and rookies like Suter. These are team-wide issues that have lasted all season long.
- Granted, the events on the final two goals against were more unfortunate than they were incompetent. Murphy had to leave the ice after losing his helmet which left his man free while Keith tripped leading to opportunity for the Preds.
- The Blackhawks also were only playing with five defensemen as Kalynuk left the game after only two shifts in the first period.
- Jeremy Colliton changed the goalie in-game for the first time this season as Malcolm Subban came in after the fifth goal against. Although the game wasn’t really on Lankinen, it was the right call just to get Lankinen out of there. The game was over and neither team really looked interested in continuing after anyway.
- It was great to see Kampf be rewarded with a goal. He’s not an offensively player by any means, but he’s deserved better than a almost 50-game goalless streak.
- Debrincat scored his 23rd goal of the season and is currently on a five-game points streak (3 G, 3 A). The novelty act is still going strong.
- The Blackhawks are now trailing both the Predators and Stars for the final spot in the playoffs, and with only 10 games left, it’s a bit of an uphill battle if they want to make the playoffs. We shouldn’t count them out yet — I want to believe in this team — but it’ll take better team-wide effort than what was shown tonight for them to make the playoffs.
- Luke Kunin (NSH) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Calle Jarnkrok (NSH) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Mikael Granlund (NSH) — 2 assists
The Blackhawks return home to face the Predators again on Wednesday night at the United Center for a 6 p.m. start.