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Preds End Trip with Loss in Chicago

Ekholm, Watson Score, But Nashville Can't Find Equalizer After Hitting Three Posts in Third

by Brooks Bratten & Thomas Willis @PredsNHL /

The Chicago Blackhawks got a bounce in the third period, and the Nashville Predators weren't rewarded with one of their own.

After Nashville evened the score early in final frame, Chicago went back ahead off a scramble in front with roughly eight minutes remaining. The Preds then hit the post three times down the stretch and ultimately fell to the Blackhawks by a 5-2 final on Sunday night at the United Center.

Ryan Hartman recorded a natural hat trick in the third, including two empty-net tallies as time wound down to give the Hawks their third victory over Nashville this season.

"I thought for the most part, our game was pretty good tonight," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "We deserved better in the third period. I think we hit three or four posts and they get their one chance and they score. That seems to be the way it's going right now."

After Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first, courtesy of a goal from Artemi Panarin, Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm struck back on the very next shift to even the score with his second of the season.

Video: NSH@CHI: Ekholm beats Crawford with a nifty wrister

Niklas Hjalmarsson gave the Blackhawks the lead back before the opening stanza was out, and the 2-1 score held until the third period when Austin Watson crashed the net and poked home a loose puck to tie things at 2-2. Later, Hartman converted after the puck hit off of his pants and into the net for the game-winner, with Nashville able to beat Corey Crawford - but not the post - for the remainder of the game.

Video: NSH@CHI: Watson puts a loose puck home past Crawford

"Our guys fought hard to tie it up [in the third]," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "At that point, it could've been 3-2, 4-2, 5-2 with the posts we hit, and it wasn't. It didn't drop for us."

"We came back, they scored first, we came back again, but we're fighting right now," Ellis said. "Hard work is probably the only thing that's going to get us out of this. It's frustrating, but we can only look to each other and hopefully get more effort and more consistency and find some success with that."

Forced to play without forwards James Neal, Viktor Arvidsson and Colin Wilson due to injury at different points throughout the three-game trip - including the absence of all three tonight - the Preds will head back home and look to get healthy once more as they hit the halfway point of the season later this week.

"Like anything in life, if you dwell on stuff and wake up each morning worried about the past; that's not going to do you any good," forward Ryan Johansen said. "Its frustrating at the moment right now, but tomorrow's a new day. We go back home, hopefully find some success there and just hopefully get back on the right track. That's all we can worry about."


Colin Wilson (lower-body injury) and Viktor Arvidsson (upper-body injury) missed Sunday's game and are considered day-to-day. James Neal, Miikka Salomaki and P.K. Subban are on Injured Reserve.

With two assists against the Blackhawks, Mike Fisher now has seven points (2g-5a) and three multi-point games in his last five outings against Chicago.

The Predators next game comes at home against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (7 p.m. CT).

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