The Chicago Blackhawks went into Game 2 against the Nashville Predators looking to take a stranglehold on the series, but the Predators had other ideas as they used four unanswered goals to grab a 6-2 victory on Friday night.
Craig Smith scored two goals and dished out an assist, and Filip Forsberg had a goal and assist as the Predators tied the series. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp each added goals for the Hawks, but it wasn’t enough as Chicago lost in embarrassing fashion.
The Blackhawks got a great early chance in the game when Jonathan Toews’ shot was steered aside by Pekka Rinne, but Nashville responded with extreme malice and scored quickly. Skating with a power play, Colin Wilson got the puck along the boards, dribbled right past Johnny Oduya, and took advantage of Corey Crawford’s early descent into the butterfly position as he flipped a shot just underneath the crossbar to make it a 1-0 game.
Over the next ten minutes, the Predators continued to dominate the proceedings, and the Blackhawks couldn’t get a shot on goal to save their lives. Fortunately for the Hawks, Crawford made some big saves during that stretch, including one on Wilson to keep things close.
The Blackhawks started to turn things around near the end of the period, with Kane and Kris Versteeg each getting quality chances, but it took a delayed penalty on Nashville for the Hawks to score. After a scramble near the front of the net, Sharp managed to pick the puck up, spin around, and lift a shot past Rinne to tie things up at 1-1.
Things looked like they’d remain tied after the first period, but Roman Josi had other ideas. Breaking into the Hawks’ zone with a head full of steam, Josi blew past several Blackhawks’ defenders before taking advantage of a screen in front of Crawford as he fired a shot into the back of the net to give Nashville a 2-1 lead with just 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Blackhawks started out the second period in similar fashion to their Game 1 effort, but they didn’t get the same success early on. Sharp and Marcus Kruger did a nice job of getting scoring chances early, and then the Hawks got a power play as Michal Rozsival took a high stick, but nothing seemed to work out as the Predators retained their lead.
About halfway through the period, the Blackhawks took advantage of some neutral zone confusion and tied the game up. Kane jumped off the bench as Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell were held up near the barrier, and Brent Seabrook hammered a pass right onto Kane’s stick. Kane then fired a wrist shot past Rinne with ease, and the game was tied at 2-2.
With about five minutes to go in the frame, the Predators seized the lead back. With the puck laying in front of the goal, both Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith whiffed on clearing attempts, and Craig Smith took advantage as he wristed a shot past Crawford to give the Predators a 3-2 lead after two periods of play.
As the third period opened, it appeared that the Predators scored a goal, but the play was immediately waved off as Mike Santroelli was whistled for interfering with Crawford. Crawford made a big save on Wilson a few moments later, and the Blackhawks backed him up as they helped kill off a Jonathan Toews interference penalty to keep the game at a one-goal margin.
With about seven minutes to go in the game, everything began to unravel for Chicago. Craig Smith did a nice job to work his way around Rozsival, and he forced a shot on net. Crawford tried to push the rebound away with his blocker, but Filip Forsberg had other ideas as he scored and made it a 4-2 game.
Over the final minutes of the game, the Predators scored two more goals. Smith scored his second goal of the game with about five and a half minutes to go, and then Santorelli put a final nail in the Hawks’ coffin for the game, leaving Crawford dejected in the crease and the Predators celebrating a 6-2 victory.
The Blackhawks won’t have much time to lick their wounds, as they will be returning to the United Center for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon. Puck drop is at 2 p.m., and the game will be televised on NBC 5 Chicago.