Second-period problems once again plagued the Nashville Predators in its 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in game three of the Western Conference first round series.
Nashville Predators Second-Rate in Second Period
The Preds were tied with Blackhawks at one after 20 minutes, but goals by Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook helped to give Chicago the lead on route to 2-1 series advantage.
Nashville has gotten off to great starts as it has scored six goals in the opening period of the three games. However, those starts have been wiped out as the usually reliable Predators defense has given up a total seven goals in the second stanza of the three games.
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The alarming issue was the Nashville Predators have given up three goals in both game one and game three of the series. Nashville wasted a great chance to start the series strong by blowing a three-goal lead in the first period and eventually losing 4-3 in double overtime.
Sunday’s loss again showed the Predators’ weakness in the second period as they lost any momentum after Mike Ribeiro tied the game quickly Andrew Desjardins’ goal put the Blackhawks up 1-0.
The second-period struggles have not been a new issue, as Nashville struggled in that period during the late stages of the season. Its great starts later in the year were nullified, and were outscored 7-1 in the midst of one of their losing skids.
Missing Shea Weber and Mike Fisher
Nashville came out on fire in the third period of game two and hit for three goals after its captain Shea Weber went down with a lower-body injury. The veteran defenseman did not travel to Chicago for games three and four.
Roman Josi and Seth Jones took care of business and got help from the bottom six forwards to get a 6-2 win and tie the series. However, any optimism was stifled in the game three loss. The Blackhawks took advantage of the Predators injuries to get the win.
One could tell that the Nashville Predators were missing the influence and leadership of Weber. There seemed to be uneasiness with the usually reliable defense. Weber was a part of the second-period collapse in the opening game, but he would’ve been able to help on Sunday.
The Predators forward group was without Mike Fisher, who missed games two and three with a lower-body injury of his own. His playoff experience and would’ve been able to help against the Blackhawks.
Players like Colin Wilson have stepped up to fill the void, but Fisher is solid at the faceoff circle and can play defense. There’s hope that Fisher can get back in the lineup for the critical game four.
Nashville has been good in the first period and has played Chicago well in the third, but its struggles in the second have left them at a deficit. The Predators have outshot the Blackhawks in all three games, but need to put past Scott Darling in order to even up the series.
The Preds also need to find a way to tighten things up in the second period if they want to tie up the series. Another bad middle 20 minutes could result in Nashville facing a nearly insurmountable 1-3 hole that they might not be able to climb out of.
If they can cure this problem and take game four, the Nashville Predators will make it a best two-out-of-three series.
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Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.