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updated: 3/23/2014 11:13 PM

Predators frustrate Blackhawks again

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  • Chicago Blackhawks' Sheldon Brookbank (17), Johnny Oduya (27), Nick Leddy (8), goalie Corey Crawford (50), and Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) react as they watch teammates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in Chicago, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The Predators won 2-0.

      Chicago Blackhawks' Sheldon Brookbank (17), Johnny Oduya (27), Nick Leddy (8), goalie Corey Crawford (50), and Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) react as they watch teammates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in Chicago, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The Predators won 2-0.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Blackhawks' Michal Handzus (26), center, battles for the puck against Nashville Predators' Shea Weber (6), left, and Craig Smith (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Sunday, March 23, 2014.

      Chicago Blackhawks' Michal Handzus (26), center, battles for the puck against Nashville Predators' Shea Weber (6), left, and Craig Smith (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Sunday, March 23, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
 

Rarely has Joel Quenneville been as upset with a performance as he was after the Blackhawks dropped a 3-2 decision at home to Nashville on March 14, calling it one of the worst games he'd seen from his guys in quite awhile.

A little more than a week later, once again it was an upset Quenneville who stepped to the podium at the United Center, but this time there was more disappointment than anger emanating from the coach after the Predators had struck again, blanking the Hawks 2-0 and all but dashing any hopes they had of catching Central Division-leading St. Louis.

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In a case of déjà vu to the Nth power, the Hawks, like they did the last time these two clubs met, came out swarming early, but just like in the last game, Nashville was able to survive the initial onslaught.

And when the Preds scored in the final two minutes of the opening period, you couldn't help but get that here-we-go-again feeling.

"We had a good start, had a couple of great looks at the net and missed the opportunities there," Quenneville said. "Then they scored first, and what happened afterward was exactly what happened the other day -- they get the lead and they go into check-fest … and they check well."

And with that lead, the check-fest in full effect, and goalie Pekka Rinne playing lights out, the road to a comeback against the Predators was daunting at best, despite outshooting them 29-17.

"It is a little frustrating," Duncan Keith said. "I don't think they outplayed us -- we had the puck more than them -- but it's kind of the game they play.

"Their goaltender is a big part of the team, and we didn't find a way to get anything behind him."

And that's exactly the way Nashville draws it up when they play the Hawks, try to score first and then clamp down on defense.

"They (Chicago) have a really good team," Rinne said. "I think we seem to match up against them pretty well. We have to play defensive-style hockey against them. They have a lot of individuals who can change the momentum of the game, but that team always seems to get the best out of us."

It's worked like a charm thus far for Nashville, which improved to 3-1 this season against the Hawks.

"We left 2 points on the table tonight," Keith said. "For whatever reason we've had trouble against these guys."

And to think the Hawks came into Sunday hoping for a victory coupled with a loss by the Blues -- and, voila, they'd be just 2 points out of first place.

Even though things didn't go as planned, Toews and Co. aren't giving up hope with 10 games left in the regular season.

"Again, it's about how we play and focusing on playing well enough to get 2 points every single game, and if we do that the standings will take care of themselves," Toews said. "You can't control what's going on elsewhere."

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