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Blackhawks seek spark to get back into series

Players taking do-or-die attitude into Game 3 against Predators following consecutive home shutouts

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

CHICAGO -- By the time the final horn sounded Saturday at United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks were in a daze.

Trudging off the ice, with the boos and catcalls from the fans who stayed to the end ringing in their ears, a few players sneaked a look at the scoreboard, confirming that the past 60 minutes of hockey had been as bad as they imagined.

The scoreboard read: Nashville 5, Chicago 0. That is the story of Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series between the top-seeded Blackhawks and the upstart Predators, the eighth seed.


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Blackhawks series coverage]


The Blackhawks have yet to score. The Predators have six goals, five in an unforgettable and unimagined performance Saturday night and the other in a taut victory two nights earlier.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who has stopped 59 shots, had two assists Saturday. He has outscored all 19 Chicago skaters in the series.

"Well, I think we all probably thought the series would be in a different place right now," forward Patrick Kane said.

How bad was it?

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette admitted he was surprised. Coaches rarely admit surprise, and rarely, if ever, own up to be pleasantly surprised. They prefer to be in control, to believe they know what has happened and why.

"I don't think I would have planned for that," Laviolette said. "They are a very good hockey team, you know. I don't know what to say. They've been successful, they have won three championships in [six years]. We know what they are capable of. They are well-coached. That wasn't the game plan coming in here, to leave here and say, 'Oh, yeah, they'll get nothing.' But our guys went to work and did a good job."

And the Blackhawks didn't.

They fell short of their standards in every facet of the game.

"That was frustration to a different level," coach Joel Quenneville said. "That wasn't fun to watch. You can look at it, we dug ourselves a tremendous hole across the board. Not too many positives come out of tonight's game.

"Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player. I think we're a better hockey team than we showed tonight."

There was little debate after the demolition was complete, that Chicago's core has to lead the charge out of this 0-2 hole in the best-of-7 series.

Game 3 is Monday in Nashville (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

Video: NSH@CHI, Gm2: Crawford denies Sissons, covers rebound

Virtually every one of the core players stood in the dressing room and faced the criticism.

"It always is," captain Jonathan Toews said when asked if the pressure was focused squarely on Chicago's main players, the ones who have navigated the way in a run of excellence that began with the 2010 Stanley Cup and also featured championships in 2013 and 2015.

"But I think everyone in this room will take it upon themselves to try to make a difference and try to get our team going with the first goal of the series. I didn't think you'd be saying that three games into the series, but I think we all add a little bit more on ourselves to try [to] find a way."

Toews has not scored in the postseason since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a stretch of 11 games. Kane has two goals during that span. Goalie Corey Crawford has lost each of his past three postseason starts, allowing 10 goals.

"I haven't been able to give our guys a good save in the first two games when we needed it," said Crawford, noting that Nashville can sit back and be patient once it gains the lead.

Nashville is using its speed and a suffocating 1-3-3 defensive scheme to frustrate the Blackhawks. The Predators are winning almost all the battles to loose pucks. If a play has to be made, the Predators make it. Their role players are outplaying Chicago's stars.

Kane, who had three shots on goal Saturday, said each player would have to look in the mirror and identify what is missing.

He started with himself.

"I haven't scored a goal in two games; not acceptable," he said. "As an offensive guy, you pride yourself in that. I've got to be better personally."

Kane believes the hard-earned lessons of playoffs past can help them. The Blackhawks lost the first two games to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but those games were on the road and were decided in overtime.

Chicago won the next four to advance.

"I don't think we need to lose confidence or swagger or anything like that," Kane said.

Added Crawford: "No one is doubting this team right now. We just have to play our game and not worry about anything."

The words came easily, if, at times, unconvincingly, because they all understood there was a simple truth at play.

"I didn't think after two games at home that we'd be talking about this already, that it's do-or-die, but we're going to go into that next game with that mentality," Toews said.

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