How it happened: Backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin put the Blackhawks in an early hole by giving up a soft rebound that Matt Cullen was able to tap in for the game’s first goal, and he had no chance on Nick Spaling’s filthy wrist shot from a tough angle less than a minute later. Corey Crawford entered after Khabibulin left with an injury and could not stop the bleeding, allowing five goals on 22 shots. On offense, the Blackhawks struggled to get shots through on Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec until Patrick Kane’s wrister found daylight with 1 minute, 16 seconds to play in the second period. Brandon Pirri brought Chicago within two with his fifth goal of the season early in the third, but former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg responded with his second goal as a Predator 15 seconds later, and Nashville added two more to hand the Blackhawks just their third regulation loss in 20 games this season.
What it means: The Blackhawks were hoping to come away from Khabibulin’s fourth start of the season with some confidence in their backup goaltending situation ahead of an upcoming seven-game road trip that will certainly put a strain on Crawford. Instead, they return home with serious questions about Khabibulin’s health and general effectiveness and a hole to fill in support of Crawford.
Player of the game: Nashville forward Craig Smith finished with a pair of primary assists and the Predators’ fourth goal of the night, a nifty backhand in close over a helpless Crawford after the Blackhawks had coughed up the puck in their own zone.
Stat of the game: Crawford appeared in his 10th consecutive game, playing nearly 45 minutes in place of Khabibulin, and allowed at least four goals for the third straight game. He was also forced into action on his last night off after Khabibulin surrendered four goals in a 6-5 win on Oct. 29.
What’s next: The Blackhawks head home to face the San Jose Sharks on Sunday for the second game of the back-to-back, the team’s last game at the United Center in the month of November. The Predators, fresh off a lengthy trip of their own, are off until Tuesday, when they head back out on the road to take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.