NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the midst of a tight playoff race, every point matters. On Wednesday night in Chicago the Predators coughed up a sure win, and the extra point that comes with it, with a complete and total third period collapse in which they coughed up a 4-1 lead on the way to a 5-4 overtime loss to the Blackhawks.
The Preds were up three goals with less than 10:00 to play, seemingly destined to extend their lead for the Central Division’s fourth and final playoff spot and all but bury the Hawks. But then Chicago scored three goals in a 2:51 span, relentlessly attacking the net front as the Nashville defense seemingly just went away.
The Predators were unbeaten in six games against the Blackhawks this season, and hadn’t allowed three goals in any one of those contests. So to give up three goals in less than three minutes was particularly deflating. When Brandon Hagel fired a shot over Juuse Saros and into the upper corner of the net in overtime, the meltdown was complete.
It was the type of collapse that can cost a team a playoff spot, and the Preds know it.
Instead of being up three points on the Stars and six on the Blackhawks, the Preds’ fourth place advantage is now just two and three points respectively. Dallas has three games in hand, as well, including two at last place Detroit this week. Chicago has one game in hand.
Nashville’s margin for error was already razor thin. Now it’s all but gone. Entering the day the Predators had just a 37 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to hockey reference. That will go down after Wednesday’s inability to close out a team that they had dominated all year, and then again for 50 minutes inside the United Center.
The Stars have 11 games left, so you have to figure they will get to at least 63 or 64 points. That would mean the Predators may need to win six of their final eight games to have much of a chance of holding them off. And now you can’t count out the Blackhawks after just their second comeback from three goals down in the third period in team history. And remember, this is an original six team we’re talking about.
The season is not over, and this team has been counted out before. But the Predators now have no option but to flush this loss and put it behind them and go get payback Friday night in the season’s final meeting with the Hawks.
And then they need to keep winning, including a showdown with the Stars on May 1st in Smashville.
Every game is a must win now. And their can be no more lapses like the one Wednesday night that may have turned the tide on the season.