Hawks goalie Corey Crawford watches a shot by Predators winger Sergei Kostitsyn sail into the net in the second period Saturday. Crawford yielded four goals on 17 shots before being pulled. | AP
Updated: February 23, 2012 8:24AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Losing the way the Blackhawks did Saturday against the Nashville Predators is one thing. It was ugly and uninspiring, especially when a defenseman scored from the center-ice line.
But potentially losing center Jonathan Toews, the unwavering leader of the Hawks and a Hart Trophy candidate for his standout play this season, tops it all.
‘‘We’ll see, and we’ll know more in the next day or so,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said after the Predators dismantled the Hawks 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena. ‘‘He didn’t finish [the game because of an] upper-body [injury]. We’ll say day-to-day.’’
Toews, who leads the Hawks with 27 goals, left during the Predators’ decisive three-goal second period. He played only 9 minutes, 55 seconds.
Toews’ injury doesn’t appear to be as serious as winger Patrick Sharp’s broken left wrist. Toews was whacked on his left wrist Friday by Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, but he finished the game. Quenneville said Toews was fine before the game, and he left Bridgestone Arena without a brace on either hand.
With and without Toews, the Hawks were completely Nashvilled. The Predators’ tight-checking system defined the victory, but it was a fluky goal by defenseman Kevin Klein that swung the
momentum, Quenneville said.
Klein scored on a long, bouncing shot from the red line that goalie Corey Crawford couldn’t corral to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 5:15 of the second period. Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn added goals later in the period as the Predators pulled away.
‘‘Yeah, it took a funny bounce,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I probably could have come out and played it. . . . There’s nothing I can do about it now.’’
Crawford lastd only 36:03, getting chased for the third time this season. He allowed four goals on 17 shots.
‘‘I never like to get pulled,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I was [angry], obviously, giving up a goal from [past] the blue line.’’
Quenneville, though, wasn’t hanging the loss on Crawford. The Hawks, who arrived late in Nashville because of a thunderstorm, might have struck some posts, but they mustered only 22 shots on goal, including a meager two in the first period.
‘‘We didn’t have a lot of juice in the tank tonight as far as puck support,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘They beat us to a lot of loose pucks. . . . [Crawford] was fine in the first period. He had a lot of action in our end. Sometimes those things happen.’’
Winger Marian Hossa was the only bright spot for the Hawks, scoring his 19th and 20th goals on breakaways in the first and third periods. His first gave the Hawks 1-0 lead.
‘‘After the [Predators’] second [goal], they took over and were the better team,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘I thought in the first period we were fine, but the last two periods they were the more hungry team.’’
Goalie Pekka Rinne made 20 saves, and Craig Smith and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Predators, who pulled within four points of the Hawks in the Central Division standings.
The result dropped the Hawks to third place in the division and to fifth in the conference after they started the day atop the West.
‘‘You lose one game, and everything shuffles again,’’ Hossa said.