Nashville Predators Stunned in Crushing Overtime Loss to Chicago

The Nashville Predators suffered a 5-4 overtime loss to their rival and fellow playoff contending Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

This is the first time the Predators have lost to Chicago in 7 meetings this season, and the loss comes at an inopportune time as the regular season is rapidly coming to a close.

Leading into tonight, goaltender Juuse Saros was 11-4-0 in his last 15 games, and Eeli Tolvanen was finally returning to the lineup.

It Was Going So Right

The Predators came out aggressively, putting lots of pucks at the net early to challenge Chicago’s Malcolm Subban. Unfortunately, Chicago was the first to score after a puzzling turnover from Roman Josi. The Preds were down 0-1 after just 4 minutes of play, but the deficit wouldn’t last long.

Viktor Arvidsson made a great pass to Tolvanen, who was set up perfectly in front of the net and buried it easily. This was Tolvanen’s 11th goal of the year, the 2nd most for Nashville.

Saros was magnificent for most of the game, making incredible saves and bailing out Nashville defenders who were unable to clear the puck on many occasions.

After a barrage of offense, Nashville’s Herd Line finally scored with 6:21 left in the 2nd period when Colton Sissons intercepted a pass at center ice and took it in himself, giving the Preds a 2-1 lead.

The Preds continued to pressure the Chicago defense, and Mikael Granlund scored with less than 2 seconds remaining in the period to give his team a 3-1 lead going into the 2nd intermission.

Less than one minute into the 3rd period, Luke Kunin netted Nashville’s fourth goal after some excellent passing from Josi and Granlund. The Preds looked unstoppable.

…Until It All Went Wrong

Chicago surprisingly scored after a blocked shot and a couple of long passes. Frankly, the goal felt out of place, as the Preds had previously had all the momentum.

Barely a minute later, Chicago scored again to make it 4-3, and the momentum had completely shifted. Nashville looked timid and outmatched.

Chicago then tied the game less than two minutes later, having scored three consecutive goals in under three minutes of game time.

Arvidsson got called for a four-minute penalty for high-sticking, and the Preds were fortunate to kill the penalty and force overtime.

…And Then It Went Wrong-er

The Predators had 1 shot on goal during OT, and after 3 minutes, Chicago took control and finished their comeback.

This was the first time that the Predators have allowed more than 3 goals to the Blackhawks all season.

The Predators did almost everything right early on, and even with a 4-1 lead, they remained aggressive and sought to run up the score. Chicago’s second goal inexplicably destroyed all of their momentum and confidence, and it all went downhill from there.

It’s worth noting that Nashville’s power play and penalty kill are still glaring weak spots that need to be remedied if they expect to win down the stretch, especially in the playoffs.

Some Bright Spots

While this loss stings, it was great to see Tolvanen return to form in his first game back. Additionally, Matt Duchene has played incredibly well since his recent return.

“The Herd Line” continues to strike fear into the hearts of opposing players with their combination of size and speed. Sissons, Yakov Trenin, and rookie Tanner Jeannot might be the strongest 4th line in the entire league. It will be interesting to see how Matthieu Olivier will fit back in once he’s healthy.

While he did allow 5 goals, Saros still played incredibly well for most of the game. Many of those goals were the result of his defense hanging him out to dry.

Despite an early turnover, Josi was magnificent in this game. He legitimately could have scored three to four goals with how many fantastic opportunities he created, but was barely stopped on.

Looking Forward

The OT loss still nets the Preds 1 point in the standings, but allows Chicago to creep closer, and are now just 3 points back. Notably, the Dallas Stars are only 2 points behind the Predators, thus the race for the 4th spot in the division is a very tight one.

After their next two games, the Stars have an incredibly tough schedule to end the season, and Chicago’s might be even tougher. However, the Predators need to earn as many points as they can, regardless of what happens in the rest of the Central Division.

The Predators will face off against Chicago for the final time this season on Friday night at 7:00 pm CST in what certainly feels like a must-win game for both teams.