The Blackhawks came away with the knowledge they had outplayed the Nashville Predators on Saturday, but it's what they didn't come away with — two points — that mattered most.
The Hawks fell to the Predators 2-1 in a shootout before 17,113 at the Sommet Center and earned only one point as they hang on for life in the Western Conference playoff race. The Hawks are within six points of the eighth and final spot, but with seven games remaining, their chances are growing dimmer with each missed opportunity.
"It's frustrating to give that point away," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "We can't let this shootout loss carry into [Sunday's game at home against St. Louis].
"We just have to tell ourselves we played a great game. For 65 minutes I thought we outchanced them, and [goalie Dan] Ellis played pretty strong. We'll regroup and worry about the points at the end of the year."
Alexander Radulov's shootout goal proved the difference as he beat Nikolai Khabibulin between the pads and Ellis stopped Sharp as the Predators won the shootout 2-1.
"Our guys, I'm proud of them," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "We just didn't get the bounce. When you get 38 shots with no power plays, you have done pretty good. It was a strong effort, and that's all you can ask. We didn't get the result, but … we had plenty of chances."
Khabibulin was sharp for the third straight start with 33 saves, but the veteran couldn't stop Radulov or Rich Peverley in the shootout after Patrick Kane started it with a goal.
Hawks penalty killers blanked the Predators in four opportunities while the power play never had a chance as Nashville wasn't called for a single penalty.
Ellis was also on top of his game as he made 37 saves and stopped Jonathan Toews and Sharp in the shootout. The Hawks had numerous scoring opportunities when they sent 15 shots at Ellis in the third and eight more in overtime. But he came up big, including robbing Andrew Ladd with a glove save with 2 minutes 29 seconds left in overtime.
"You want to win those," Toews said. "We played hard in the third, [but] he made some big stops."
Jason Arnott gave Nashville a 1-0 lead at the 5:24 mark of the first period when he banged a rebound past Khabibulin. Ladd answered at 14:42 of the first when he took a terrific pass from Dave Bolland from behind the net and scored his 13th of the season. After that, it was all Ellis and Khabibulin.
"Khabibulin was spectacular, and Ellis was great," Savard said. "We played a heck of a third period. We just didn't find a way."
Under the knife Ben Eager will undergo surgery Monday on his shoulder to repair a rotator cuff. The winger injured it March 7 against San Jose. His recovery is expected to take six to eight weeks.
"He was trying to rehab it, but it just hasn't gone well," Savard said. "They're going to take care of it so he's ready for next year."
Eager played nine games with the Hawks after being acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Jim Vandermeer on Dec. 18. Before the shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the last seven games, Eager was sidelined 27 games with a concussion.
Despite his limited play with Hawks, Savard saw potential in Eager's skills.
"I was impressed … before he got hurt," Savard said. "He can skate and he's physical. His minutes are going to increase next year."
One-timersCenter Robert Lang left Saturday's game in the first period with a sore back and didn't return. His status for Sunday is undetermined. … Defenseman Cam Barker missed the game with a slight concussion. He's day-to-day, and Savard said there's a slight chance he will play Sunday.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun