All good things must eventually come to an end.
The Nashville Predators fell 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at the United Center in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, giving Chicago a 4-2 series win and bringing the Preds 2014-15 campaign to a close.
The clubs exchanged several goals in the first period, scoring three apiece in a back-and-forth frame. After a scoreless second, the Blackhawks continued to press in the final stanza, eventually notching their fourth tally of the night with less than four minutes to play.
Nashville pushed back as time wound down, but it simply wasn’t enough for an equalizer.
“Our guys played hard,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “You ask a team to go out and play hard and play to the best of their ability. I think we did that in this series, and we weren’t able to get it done. It’s just a difficult time for our group right now.”
Forward James Neal potted Nashville’s first two goals, including one on the power play, to give the Preds a 2-0 lead in the first. After Chicago got on the board, Matt Cullen made it 3-1 in favor of the Predators to chase Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling from the net for Corey Crawford.
Chicago evened the score before the period was out, however, thanks to markers from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith put home the game winner with time winding down in the third off a slapper from the point through traffic.
“We controlled the game for the most part, but we weren’t able to close it out,” Nashville forward Taylor Beck said. “Everyone is pretty down right now, but it’s a learning thing. We know we’re a young team, and we know we can be very successful.
“The good thing is that we have a really young team. We’ve had a lot of guys show what they’re capable of, especially in the playoffs. I think we have the best D corps in the League. So as the younger guys step up, and I know I’m going to try to, we’re going to win one some day for sure.”
The Predators had every intention of returning home to Nashville for a Game Seven on Monday. Instead, the loss brings upon the start of an offseason that came sooner than anyone would’ve wished.
“I think everyone left it all out there,” Preds defenseman Seth Jones said. “Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We’re not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that’s all that we can ask for. Each guy came to the rink this year and played for each other and their teammates in the room. Unfortunately, it ended a little too early.”
“We have so many great teammates on this team and it’s disappointing [right now], but we’re a close-knit group,” forward Mike Fisher said. “A lot of guys played unbelievable for us all year long and we improved a heck of a lot from last year. We’re going to keep going and we’re going to win.”
Seth Jones’ assist, his fourth of the series, came on James Neal’s goal 1:10 into the contest and tied a franchise record for the most helpers in a playoff round.
Jonathan Toews’ power-play goal in the opening period was the Hawks first man-advantage tally since Game One and broke a four-game spotless streak for the Preds on the penalty kill.
The Predators return trip to the postseason for the first time in three years ends after six games. In his first season as Nashville’s Head Coach, Peter Laviolette reached the playoffs for the third time as a first-year coach (managed four teams).
Filip Forsberg ends as the Preds postseason points leader with six, while Colin Wilson paced the team in goals in the first round with five.