The Nashville Predators got better play in the nets Thursday as their starting goalie made it all the way to the finish for the first time in three games.
The front of the goal was not always properly protected, though, and that contributed to a fourth straight defeat as the Predators fell 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks before 13,103 at Sommet Center.
In particular, the No. 2 pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein struggled at times to take care of their end. The two were on the ice for all three Blackhawks’ goals. Each finished with a minus-2 rating, which dropped them to a team-low minus-7 for the season.
“Yeah, they’re out of sorts a little bit, I have to admit,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I didn’t think that the last two (games) that they’ve been really, really sharp. Unfortunately that happens, but they have to work that out. … No one can do it for them.”
Chicago took a 2-0 lead when it scored twice in a span of 28 seconds in the second period.
Dustin Byfuglien got the first when he established position against Hamhuis and converted a rebound chance nine seconds into a power play. Tomas Kopecky got the next when Klein took the puck from Hamhuis and then turned it over. Colin Fraser quickly fed Kopecky whose shot beat Rinne before either of the blue liners recovered.
The Blackhawks then capped the scoring early in the third period when Duncan Keith blasted a shot from the top of the circle past Rinne. Keith got help from a screener who skated unabated to the front of the net.
Rinne did make 27 saves but fell to 0-3 on the season.
In his previous start, a 6-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday, he was pulled after he allowed four goals in the first period. In a 6-0 defeat at Dallas on Wednesday, he replaced starter Dan Ellis before the end of the first period after Ellis allowed goals on the first three shots he faced.
“As a team, we tried to play the best we could in the defensive zone and we certainly improved over the last couple games,” Hamhuis said. “We still have to get a little better.”
Chicago, on the other hand, limited the Predators to a season-low 13 shots on goal (two in the third period), 12 fewer than their previous low point.
Not that Nashville didn’t try to shoot. Its players missed the net 13 times, and the Blackhawks blocked another 16 attempts, and 12 of those blocks were by defensemen.
“We have to just shoot the puck more,” captain Jason Arnott said. “I think we’re trying to make that pretty play instead of just putting on net, crashing the net and banging in rebounds.”
Martin Erat scored Nashville’s only goal when he deflected in off the skate of a Chicago defenseman. That happened just 47 seconds after the Blackhawks went up 2-0 and injected some much-needed life into the Predators’ bench for a time.
“When it was 2-1, we had three glorious chances to tie the game,” Trotz said. “We had a 3-on-1, we missed an open net and we hit the post. We didn’t convert.
“Then they got the third goal … (when) we overpursued in the middle.”
• In an attempt to get more production from the power play the Predators went with four forwards – Arnott, Dumont, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan – with defenseman Shea Weber. Sullivan played the point opposite Weber.
Still, Nashville finished 0-3 with the man-advantage. It scored on its first power play of the season but now has missed on its last 19.
• Cal O’Reilly was in the lineup hours after being recalled from Milwaukee, for which he had four assists on Wednesday. O’Reilly played left wing on the third line with center David Legwand and Hornqvist on the right wing.
He had one shot on goal in 13:59 of ice time.
“Cal had some chances,” Trotz said. “I didn’t mind Cal at all. In fact, I liked his game. He hasn’t played a lot of wing, but he made plays and he has good awareness. I was happy with him.”
• The Predators have scored just seven goals in six games, two in the last four contests.
“We could use a few more goals,” Trotz said.
• Dumont played for the first time since he was injured in the opener at Dallas. He had one shot.
• Wade Belak and Ben Guite were scratched. Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor) remained on Injured Reserve.