The Blackhawks undoubtedly played one of their best games of the recent stretch on Saturday in Nashville, but couldn't solve Juuse Saros in net as the Predators took a 3-0 win on home ice.
"Frustrating, yeah. Hockey's a weird game," Dylan Strome said. "I felt like we played a pretty good game and had a lot of chances, just ran into a hot goalie and they scored on their chances. Frustrating, but got to find a way to find ourselves out of this little hole we're in."
"It's tough. It was a huge game," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "These are the biggest games right now of the year. Tough loss, but we did a lot of good things 5-on-5… Every goal is huge, especially this time of year, and it'd be nice to try and get that first one and carry some momentum."
Video: CHI Recap: Lankinen, Blackhawks shut out by Predators
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Chicago got the start they wanted in the game, largely controlling play in the opening half of the game, but a pair of special teams mishaps proved to be the difference on Saturday.
On the opening power play of the game, Eeli Tolvanen blistered a slap shot past Kevin Lankinen just 18 seconds into the advantage for the 1-0 lead. Then, in the second as Chicago was on the second power play of their own, Colton Sissons drew a shorthanded penalty shot that he converted for a 2-0 score.
"Special teams is a big difference in the game," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They got one early, which they didn't get much other than that in the first 30 minutes of the game. They get the breakaway and the penalty shot on our power play and it's 2-0."
The Blackhawks had a prime opportunity to jump back into the game in the third as Adam Boqvist drew successive penalties five seconds apart to put the visitors on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:55. Chicago had a few good looks at the net but couldn't solve Saros to get one back.
"We get the 5-on-3 with a chance to turn the game or get some momentum," Colliton said. "I thought we had a lot of chances through all three periods, but obviously that power play was a chance to break through and get some momentum. We just couldn't do it."
"It was a big chance there for us," Keith said. "They've got a good penalty kill and we didn't get one, but would've liked to get one there. For sure, that was a tough one, but there's lots of times in the game where we've just got to keep moving ahead."
Video: Keith on special teams play in loss to NSH
For the first time this season, Chicago was held off the scoreboard in a game. Saros was perfect on the afternoon, saving all 41 shots he faced.
"Lots of chances, just couldn't score," said Strome, who tied for the team lead in shots on the afternoon with five. "He had a good game... He made some great saves in the third there. It's frustrating, but back at it on Tuesday."
In three games against the Blackhawks this season, Saros has allowed just two goals on 101 shots.
Video: Strome on loss to the Predators
GOOD TO GO
Brandon Hagel was a surprising absence from Blackhawks practice on Friday as the forward was placed on the NHL's COVID-19 Protocol list, but he was back in action on Saturday in Nashville after it was determined to be a false positive test.
"He had a positive, but it was false and he just needed to test out of it," Colliton explained after the game. "We're obviously happy he was able to play, but he had to jump through quite a few hoops to get here."
Hagel played 13:27 of ice time in his 36th straight appearance in the lineup.