A 2-0 lead in the third? ‘Those are ones you kind of have to win’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After going more than seven periods into their opening playoff series without a goal, the Blackhawks scored not once, but twice in a 10:10 span of the second period of Game 3 against the Predators on Monday night for a two-goal lead.

And blew it.

“Those are ones you kind of have to win,” Hawks goalie Corey Crawford said.

That the Hawks did not pretty much tells you the state of the utterly disappointing Hawks after a 3-2 overtime loss at Bridgestone Arena saddled them with a 3-0 series deficit. It took a fortuitous bounce off the glass behind the net for Filip Forsberg to score the Predators’ first goal. And the Hawks felt Crawford was interfered with on Forsberg’s tying goal. But this wasn’t a matter of not getting the breaks. The Hawks had a lead they were desperate for after back-to-back shutout losses at the United Center. With all the momentum, they had opportunities to build on the lead. This one was on the Hawks and they seemed to know it.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a power-play goal that gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead over the Nashville Predators in the second period Monday night. The Hawks lost, 3-2 in overtime. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Patrick Kane aptly described the 2-0 lead as “nice to have but even worse to give up.”

What happened?

“We had a good second period and you kind of get in that defensive mode and we were just kind of sitting back,” Kane said. “I know they had a few chances. First goal, lucky bounce off the stanchion; second goal, you could say maybe Crow gets interfered with. Just a couple of bounces that didn’t go our way.”

Kane knows that won’t fly considering the dire situation the Hawks were in. The Hawks lost a game they had to have.

“It’s easy to make excuses,” Kane said. “But at the same time, you can make your bounces in this game and that’s [what] you want to do going forward. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done.”

The Hawks’ dreadful performance in losing 5-0 in Game 2 was a red flag. But even with a much-improved performance, their loss in Game 3 might have been more disappointing. They had a perfect opportunity to make the move they needed to make — a solid road victory that might have planted a seed of doubt in the Predators — and frittered it away. If they couldn’t parlay a long-awaited 2-0 lead into a much-needed victory in Game 3, it’s hard to see them rallying from a 3-0 deficit.

“Pretty disappointed,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Obviously we can’t like where we’re at in this series after that game. You know they’re going to give a push in that third period. For the most part, I think we checked pretty well.

“I think we were still feeling confident even though we gave up the tying goal. Going into overtime, the chatter, the energy, the talk in the room was positive. We felt like we were just waiting patiently and working for that one bounce. It obviously didn’t come soon enough.”

The Hawks got a huge boost when Dennis Rasmussen scored right in front of Pekka Rinne off a nifty pass from Marcus Kruger from behind the net to break a 141-minute, five-second scoring drought in the series in the second period. And Kane’s goal seemed to put the Hawks right where they wanted to be.

“It’s a long game, a lot of work ahead of you,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They got a little momentum when they scored. The play was innocent, got a break off the bounce [off the stanchion behind the net] and still in pretty good shape [up 2-1]. Gotta close it out. Gave up another funny one and here we go again.”

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Email: mpotash@suntimes.com