Powerless power play dooms Blackhawks in loss to Predators
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For 20 minutes Friday, the Blackhawks looked like the Blackhawks again. Not just the team that blitzed the Penguins and Blue Jackets to open the season, but the team that toyed with the rest of the NHL for much of the last decade.
From the opening minute, coach Joel Quenneville’s reconfigured lineup was all over the Predators. Tommy Wingels’ line spent nearly a minute deep in the Predators’ zone. Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews got creative in the offensive zone on the next shift. Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane set up shop there, too.
Just 12 minutes into the game, 13 Hawks had fired a shot on goal. By the end of the period, the Hawks had outshot the Predators 21-7. It was a virtuoso performance. And it yielded only one measly goal. Short-handed. In the last minute of the period.
And the Hawks went on to lose 2-1.
Cruel game, hockey.
‘‘Couldn’t really ask for more, I guess,’’ said goalie Corey Crawford, who made 28 saves. ‘‘Just needed some puck luck around the net. But we did a lot of good things.’’
The immediate result was that the Hawks lost for the fourth time in their last five games, that they scored two or fewer goals for the sixth time in their last seven games.
But the Hawks tried to focus on the process more than the result. As defenseman Duncan Keith was quick to point out, it was a considerably better performance than the Hawks had Tuesday in Las Vegas. Pekka Rinne had to make 43 saves to pull this one out for the Predators, and a lousy second period was bookended by an outstanding first and an aggressive third.
‘‘When you put up 40-plus shots, you’re probably doing something right,’’ Kane said. ‘‘We know we could have some more traffic in front, and that’s something we’re trying to stress in here, too. Hopefully, we can make it harder on the next goalie.’’
It was a pitiful power play (0-of-6) that doomed the Hawks. In the last four games, the Hawks are 1-for-16 on the power play. In that same time, they have scored two short-handed goals.
The Hawks had two power plays in the third, but one ended prematurely when Kane was whistled for goalie interference despite being ridden into Rinne by the Predators’ Yannick Weber. Another came up empty shortly after that.
‘‘It’s not like it was purposeful to run him over like that,’’ Kane said. ‘‘I thought the penalty was actually on them for pushing me in.’’
The Hawks had led 1-0 after Artem Anisimov followed up Schmaltz’s short-handed breakaway with 25 seconds left in that dominant first period. But that lead evaporated less than a minute into the second, as Calle Jarnkrok pounced on a turnover by Keith in the slot and beat Crawford to make it 1-1.
The Predators took a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal by Craig Smith at 11:02 of the second. And once the Predators had the lead, they did what they do best — sit on it.
Hockey isn’t always a fair game. Often, the dominant team wins, like the Predators did in their four-game sweep of the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs last April. But sometimes a dominant effort yields little.
The Predators learned that two weeks ago, when Crawford and the Hawks stole an overtime victory. The Hawks were reminded of it in the rematch Friday.
It was another loss — another low-scoring loss, at that. But it was better. And this early in the season, in a mediocre division, the Hawks will take better.
‘‘I thought we had a lot better game than we’ve had over the last stretch,’’ Keith said. ‘‘We did a lot of good things. And if we play like that, most nights we’re going to at least have a chance to get a couple of points.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.