Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen, and Kevin Fiala potted goals for the Predators as they extended their series lead. Pekka Rinne also stayed hot with 30 saves on 30 shots for his second straight blank slate. Suddenly, Nashville has a huge advantage in a series it was widely expected to lose.
There are lot of culprits in the 2-0 hole. Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz have struggled in their playoff debuts. Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Jonathan Toews haven’t gotten going at all. Johnny Oduya’s declining speed has been exposed repeatedly, and the Duncan Keith pairing is losing the possession battle to the Predators’ first line. Corey Crawford hasn’t been good enough to make up for those problems.
The Blackhawks will need to win at least two games in Nashville in order to get out of this series alive after blowing their home ice advantage. They’re far from done, but the Predators have staked their claim over this series so far.
Here’s how it happened:
Surely the Blackhawks would come out with some extra pep in their step in such an important game, right? That’s roughly what happened for the first couple minutes, but the Predators quickly swung the pendulum back in their direction with a similar style to Game 1.
Eventually, Ellis got a juicy shooting opportunity from the point, and while Richard Panik made a sliding block on the initial shot, the puck bounced right back to Ellis. The defenseman rifled it back toward the net and slipped it through a screen from Viktor Arvidsson to beat Corey Crawford.
The Predators held a 23-14 advantage in shot attempts and a 12-7 advantage in shots on goal after 20 minutes. They outshot the Hawks, 8-1, with Jonathan Toews on the ice, which is not exactly the result you want from your No. 1 center.
The intermission didn’t solve the Blackhawks’ sloppiness. Harry Zolnierczyk caught the defense sleeping on a sloppy line change and got a breakaway, which ended with him sniping the puck off the post and in. Johnny Oduya was scrambling behind him to try to prevent a shot, but his backchecking stick didn’t arrive in time.
Roughly 10 minutes later, Sissons scored to give the Predators a 3-0 lead late in period. This was the one that turned Blackhawks Twitter upside down as the reality started setting in that there probably wouldn’t be a comeback. Was overcoming a three-goal deficit impossible? No, but it wasn’t going to happen the way they were playing.
If you insist upon hearing about it, well, the Blackhawks didn’t score. They got some good chances, but Rinne continued his red hot play to deliver a second straight road shutout. There was also lots of line juggling as the Hawks sought to find a top six that could actually score. Instead, Johansen and Fiala added to the blowout.
SCH’s 3 Stars of the Game
1) Pekka Rinne, Predators (30 saves on 30 shots, 1 assist)
2) Ryan Johansen, Predators (1 goal, 2 assists)
3) Harry Zolnierczyk, Predators (1 goal)
A 2-0 series lead is far from a death sentence for a team like the Blackhawks, but the pressure is starting to mount. The team will need to win four of the next five games with three of those in Nashville, and it didn’t exactly offer much confidence with its performance Saturday. There’s no reason to be worried because they’re down two games. There’s reason to be worried because they looked so bad while digging that hole.
|Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports|
Blackhawks frustration 'at different level' after 5-0 loss to Predators
If anxiety had an audible quality, you could have heard it Saturday night at the United Center when Ryan Ellis scored the first goal of the game.
The Blackhawks had worked the crowd into a frenzy with a strong opening few minutes, but as Ellis' shot from the point hit the back of the net, the crowd of 22,175 went from delirious screams to a collective, "Oh."
They sounded out of breath. It was the Predators who took it away in a stunning 5-0 victory in Game 2. The Predators lead this Western Conference quarterfinal series 2-0, and as it heads to Nashville on Monday, the Hawks are in an unprecedented situation for the Joel Quenneville era of dropping their first two games at home in a playoff series.
"That was frustration to a different level," Quenneville said. "That wasn't fun to watch. We dug ourselves a tremendous hole. Across the board, not too many positives came out of (Saturday's) game. Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player. We need to get out of this mess and hole."
It's as deep as it can be after two games. With every Predators blocked shot, missed Hawks pass and Pekka Rinne save (30 in all Saturday, 59 over the two games), the anxiety turned to disbelief. Certainly, this wretched start couldn't be happening to the Hawks, the best team in the Western Conference and winner of three Stanley Cups this decade? It wasn't a dream.
"We all thought the series would be in a different place right now," winger Patrick Kane said. "That's the way hockey goes, I guess. You put forth that effort and don't get the outcome you want. Nothing we can do about it now."
The Hawks who looked like the league's best team during February and March vanished.
The young players who appeared on an upward trajectory were overwhelmed. The veteran defensemen looked a step slow. And the core that has carried the Hawks to previous titles was ineffective. Somehow, the Hawks have not scored a goal for 120 consecutive minutes.
"I didn't think you would be saying that (two) games into the series," captain Jonathan Toews said.
That's putting it lightly.
Some credit is due to the Predators' disciplined defensive approach that has made the net front and slot harder to enter than the Jane Byrne Interchange during rush hour.
But most of that lands on the Hawks, specifically the core. Last postseason, Toews and Kane combined for just one goal in a seven-game playoff loss to the Blues. Those issues have carried over into this season.
Justifiable boos rained down at various times, and as the clock wound down in the third period, an awkward silence filled the arena. It allowed the cheers of the Predators to reverberate. They got goals from a number of sources — Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala. The Hawks remained silent until after the game, when they vowed to be better.
"For us, it's getting back to that desperate energy, the scratching-and-clawing, whatever-it-takes type of hockey," Toews said.
They need to find that level — in a hurry.
"We've had some funny games this year," Quenneville said. "This was one of them. It wasn't fun to watch, standing from behind the bench. As a teammate, as a player, as a coach, it's one of those games that it's as bad as you can be. … We have to be way better and bring our best because we haven't seen anywhere near our best."
Or else they might not make it back to the United Center this season.
NHL Three Stars: Rinne blanks Blackhawks again; Kapanen, Phaneuf OT heroes
No. 1 Star: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Rinne not only shut the Chicago Blackhawks out for the second straight game, he also contributed offensively. As the Predators took a 2-0 series lead with a 5-0 victory, the Finnish netminder recorded a pair of assists along with 30 saves. He now has stopped all 59 shots he’s faced. According to the NHL, Nashville is the fifth team ever to start the playoffs with consecutive road shutouts.
No. 2 Star: Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs rookie came up big with a pair of goals, including the double overtime winner to give Toronto a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Their series is now tied at one. It was Brian Boyle, who finished with two helpers on the night, who set up the winner with this lovely assist:
No. 3 Star: Dion Phaneuf, Ottawa Senators
Phaneuf (three points) capped off a dramatic Senators comeback with his first career playoff overtime goal in a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins. The series is now even at one thanks to an Ottawa comeback that started in the third period with two goals in a 2:20 span from Chris Wideman and Derick Brassard. Just under two minutes into overtime, it was Phaneuf’s blast from the point that beat Tuukka Rask to grab the victory.
Honorable Mention: The Predators got goals from five different players. Four of the five (Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala) scored the first playoff goals of their careers … Ryan Johansen chipped in a goal and two assists … Clark MacArthur scored the opening goal for the Senators. It was his first goal since April 19, 2015 … Frederik Andersen and Braden Holtby each stopped 47 shots … Alex Ovechkin set a Capitals franchise record with his 14th career postseason power play goal … Ryan Getzlaf’s centering pass deflected off Lance Bouma’s skate to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Getzlaf’s power play goal, which came with 4:46 left in the third period, was his second of the series. John Gibson stopped 35 of 37 shots faced. Anaheim now has a 2-0 lead in their series.
Did You Know? “Chicago was shut out in consecutive playoff games for the first time since it was blanked in three straight in April 2002 against St. Louis.” (AP)
Dishonorable Mention: Chicago has yet to score a goal through two games and have lost six straight going back to the regular season … Calgary has now lost 29 straight games in Anaheim and has never come back from a 2-0 deficit in a playoff series …