NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With two days off to stew on their crushing 3-2 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators, which ended shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning, there will be plenty of time for the Blackhawks to think about what went wrong. About how they’ve fallen into a 3-0 hole. About how they blew a 2-0 third-period lead in Game 3. About how only four teams in NHL history have ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.
There’ll be time to analyze how to get through the Predators defense. To analyze what they did right in a strong second period, their only truly good period of 10 so far this series. To analyze what they did right way back in 2011 when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to at least force a Game 7 in Vancouver.
The more visceral, less contemplative, reactions in the sullen moments after Kevin Fiala tucked the puck past a sprawling Corey Crawford at 16:44 of overtime were disappointment, anger, and frustration. Disappointment over the game’s ultimate closers squandering a two-goal lead. Anger that their terrific season could end so quickly. Frustration that a fluky bounce led to one Nashville goal, and — in their minds — goalie interference led to the second.
Can they move past it? Can they regroup? Can they come back?
“We’re going to have to,” Joel Quenneville said.
It’s a shocking turn of events in the series, with the Hawks continually getting outworked, outhustled, and outplayed by the hungrier Predators. And it was a shocking turn of events in the game. After escaping the first period with a 0-0 tie despite going nearly 11 minutes without a shot toward the end, the Hawks started to look like the Hawks again in the second. Dennis Rasmussen ended the team’s mind-boggling postseason scoring drought of 176 minutes, 40 seconds — dating back to Game 7 in St. Louis last April — when he swept in a Marcus Kruger feed at 1:05 of the second.
A raucous Bridgestone Arena, at ear-splitting levels throughout pregame and the first period, suddenly fell silent. And a disastrous series for the Hawks, who who were left embarrassed and furious by their putrid Game 2 performance, suddenly seemed within reach. Patrick Kane then ripped a wrist shot from the right circle past Rinne on a power play at 11:15, unleashing a big right-handed, windmill fist pump in celebration of his 50th career playoff goal. The Hawks couldn’t have scripted it any better — a greasy goal by a depth scorer, and then a star play from a star player.
“Didn’t have the greatest start, but I thought we played really well in the second period [to] get us that 2-0 lead — which was nice to have and even worse to give up,” Kane said. “They kind of took over in the third, and we kind of sat back.”
Indeed, the Predators kept coming. Filip Forsberg gave Nashville life when he scored off a fluky bounce — Viktor Arvidsson’s shot sailed over the net, hit the glass above the end boards, bounced back over the net and landed in the crease, with Crawford unaware. Then, at 14:08, Forsberg scored the equalizer off a Ryan Ellis rebound. Crawford was bumped, but was well out of the crease, and the goal stood after Quenneville challenged for interference.
“First goal, lucky bounce off the stanchion, second goal you could say maybe Crow gets interfered with, just a couple bounces that didn’t go our way,” Kane said. “It’s easy to look and make excuses, but at the same time, you can make your bounces in this game. … No excuses; we didn’t get the job done.”
Crawford was outstanding in overtime, his 45th save of the game the biggest, as he got a pad on a golden chance for Fiala on the doorstep. But Fiala — who also just missed the game-winner moments before that one — finally scored on the third try, slipping the puck past Crawford after a Marian Hossa turnover at the blue line.
Now comes a situation that even the battle-tested Hawks have never successfully conquered. But first, two days to stew on what went wrong, and what needs to go right.
“We’ve got more,” Crawford said. “We definitely have more. Nothing is over yet.”
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