The 5-2 score on Monday night in Nashville might not depict the full story of the five-game trip finale for the Blackhawks, but it's all that matters in the first of three straight meetings with the Predators this week. In two separate minute spans of action, the Predators notched four of their five tallies on the night to open a four-point lead on the fourth spot in the Central Division with the win.
"For us to win these games, we've got to be close to our top level," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's a great challenge for us and we want to rise to it. I think for a lot of the game we were very good. Ultimately the mistakes that we made are tough to recover from. It's just tough to come back when you put yourself in a hole."
"I think in intense games against good teams, that's what it's going to be. The margin is going to be small," Connor Murphy said. "Teams this time of year, if you're going to play for a playoff spot, you have to be sharp for longer periods of the game."
Video: CHI Recap: Blackhawks open Predators series with loss
Here are three takeaways from the loss in Nashville:
The Predators took the win on Monday night thanks in large part to a pair of two-goal stretches, tallying 51 seconds apart in the second period to make it 3-1 and then 18 seconds apart early in the third to make it 5-2.
"It sucks. We had a few breakdowns, about two minutes of poor hockey and they score four goals," Alex DeBrincat said. "We've got to be better, come back to play. We have some home games coming up and we need to capitalize there."
"I thought we were playing well," Colliton said of the opening 40 minutes. "Obviously to go down 3-1 was tough, but then we battled back and I thought we controlled a lot of that second period and easily could've tied it. You want to recapture that momentum on the first shift."
It was a difficult opening minute particularly in the third. On that opening shift, Murphy's helmet was knocked off and sent spinning away from the play off a scramble in front, forcing the defenseman to head for the bench to avoid a penalty on the play. As he did, Tanner Jeannot broke free in the slot and quickly put home the early goal.
"I don't think he lost his helmet, he got his helmet knocked off," Colliton described. "The guys on the left side of the ice didn't know it."
"It's really frustrating. I don't really like that rule that you have to take yourself out of the play," Murphy said of the first goal. "Obviously you're not knocking your own helmet off. You get in a battle and sometimes their guy going to try to push his arm around your head and slip your helmet off. That guy ends up getting a free path to the net to score... Maybe it's worth taking a penalty because I think it's crazy you have to let a guy go to the net and score."
Seconds later, Duncan Keith lost an edge in transition after Predators keep in at the blue line and, in similar fashion, Luke Kunin found open space in front for the final tally in the 5-2 win.
"Two goals, to give them up the way we did, was obviously a tough blow considering how we played up to that point and then even after that," Colliton said. "We had a lot of the play, we certainly had our chances."
Video: Colliton on loss to NSH
One week to the day after he was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks, Adam Gaudette made his Blackhawks debut in Nashville. He registered the primary assist on Kampf's tally after a trio of shot attempts in quick succession were blocked in the slot and skated in 7:39 of action in his first game in nearly four weeks.
"We felt he was close to ready, but obviously with [Brandon Hagel] not being available, he got the chance," Colliton said of the winger who dealt overcame a bout with COVID-19 just before the trade deadline. "I thought he got better as the game went on. Definitely the last two periods, he had some good shifts, had some chances, made some plays and obviously that line got a goal for us. Good for him to get into the group and I thought he was solid."
The 2018 Honey Baker Award winner drew in in place of Hagel, who was ruled out from Monday's contest while awaiting the results of a second COVID-19 test following a false positive earlier in the day.
"He needed another negative test," Colliton said. "Again, a false positive and we couldn't get it in time."
Video: Murphy on loss to NSH
RIGHT BACK AT IT
The Blackhawks won't have to wait any time to try and bounce back from Monday's defeat as the two teams are Chicago-bound to wrap the season series on Wednesday and Friday at the United Center.
Now four points back of Nashville and one point back of Dallas in the playoff race, all four points on home ice are crucial heading with now under three full weeks to play.
"We've got to be better, come back to play," DeBrincat said. "We have some home games coming up and we need to capitalize there."
"We definitely showed what it should look like to give ourselves a chance to beat that team and we're going to need to bring that next time out," Colliton said. "It's still there for us. We know we probably need two of these three and we've got to respond."
Video: DeBrincat on loss to Nashville