The Blackhawks felt they played well for the majority of the game Monday against the Predators.
But two disastrous stretches — one entirely self-inflicted, the other aided by unlucky breaks — nonetheless doomed the Hawks to a 5-2 loss.
“It sucks,” Alex DeBrincat said. “We have a few breakdowns, about two minutes of poor hockey, and they score four goals. We’ve got to be better.”
“For a lot of the game, we were very good,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Ultimately, the mistakes we made are tough to recover from. It’s just tough to come back when you put yourself in a hole.”
The Stars beat the Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout, leaving the Hawks now sixth in the Central Division in terms of both points percentage and actual points. Their backs are against the wall in the playoff race, and six losses in as many games against Nashville this season are easily the biggest reason why.
Offensively, the Hawks did generate more Monday than they typically have against the Predators’ stout system.
With an emphasis on dump-and-chase zone entries and behind-the-net plays, the Hawks actually produced 57 shot attempts to Nashville’s 46. Colliton said the Hawks “did a better job of sustaining zone time.”
Defensively, however, the Hawks crumbled at the worst times.
The Preds took a 3-1 lead with two goals 51 seconds apart in the second period, taking advantage of a blown assignment from Nikita Zadorov in front of his own net followed by a needless Duncan Keith turnover that turned into a semi-breakaway.
Two goals 18 seconds apart in the third period’s opening minute later turned the game into a rout.
Turnovers by Pius Suter and Calvin de Haan contributed to the goals, but so did two unfortunate moments. Murphy had his helmet knocked off by Tanner Jeannot and had to leave the play or incur a penalty, letting Jeannot score easily; Murphy later called the rule “crazy.” Keith slipped while turning during the following play, letting Luke Kunin score easily.
“[In the] third period, [we were] probably not ready to go,” DeBrincat said. “We needed to have a good first shift and second shift, as well. We just can’t let that happen.”
Colliton pulled Kevin Lankinen after he allowed five goals on 22 shots, marking the first time he has made a goalie switch all season.
The Hawks’ three-game series against the Preds continues Wednesday and Friday in Chicago. Colliton said the team figured entering the day they’d “probably need two of these three.” Now, the math is even easier — and the climb is even steeper.
“The margin of error is small,” Connor Murphy said. “If you’re going to play for a playoff spot, you have to be sharp for longer periods of the game. We weren’t sharp for long enough tonight.”
Trade deadline acquisition Adam Gaudette, who’d been practicing since last Wednesday, made his Hawks debut Monday.
The 24-year-old forward took the place of Brandon Hagel, who had yet another false positive COVID-19 test — his second in the past few weeks — and couldn’t get multiple negative results back before warmups, Colliton said.
Gaudette played only 7:39 but earned an assist on David Kampf’s second-period goal — Kampf’s first in 46 games this year.
“We felt [Gaudette] was close to ready, but with [Hagel] not being available, he got the chance,” Colliton said. “He got better as the game went on. Definitely the last two periods, he had some good shifts.”