NASHVILLE—The Blackhawks normally get themselves in trouble when they are in the penalty box too much.
The problem Tuesday night was the Hawks having too many power plays.
For the third time this season the Hawks failed to win back-to-back games. They have yet to win in three tries against Central Division opponents.
The Hawks begin the first of three straight games against the front-running Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. It's no stretch to say that barring a drastic turnaround in the next six days, the Hawks' playoff hopes could be in severe jeopardy by Nov. 1.
Six teams in the Western Conference have reached double digits in points. After nine games the Hawks have just six.
"We have to bounce back," winger Martin Lapointe said. "It's going to be a good test in Detroit."
They couldn't have asked for a better opportunity than the one presented Tuesday. The Predators, trying to extend their team-record winning streak to eight games, gave the Hawks three power plays in the first 6 minutes 19 seconds.
But the Hawks squandered their chances. Aside from a Rene Bourque shot turned aside by Tomas Vokoun, the Hawks didn't seriously threaten, managing a total of four shots on goal. Vokoun finished with a season-high 38 saves.
"When you get those opportunities early and you don't take advantage of it, they usually come back to haunt you," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said.
Less than a minute after killing off the third power play, Nashville's Martin Erat beat Nikolai Khabibulin from the top of the left faceoff circle, whipping a shot over Khabibulin's right shoulder. The goal was similar to the one Khabibulin allowed to Dean McAmmond in St. Louis.
The wheels came completely off after that. On their first power play of the night, the Predators converted. Khabibulin failed to freeze a loose puck through the slot, sending it instead to Dan Hamhuis. His shot deflected right to Yanic Perreault, who had an open net from the low slot.
Just 1:15 later, Paul Kariya and David Legwand worked a give-and-go from the corner, with Kariya flipping a backhander past Khabibulin to make it 3-0.
Despite not doing anything with their seven power plays in the second period, the Hawks managed to climb within 3-2 on goals by Jim Dowd and Matthew Barnaby 36 seconds apart.
They had a chance to tie it with a five-on-three for 42 seconds but wasted the last 20 seconds of it.
"Good teams find a way to cash in on the power play," Lapointe said. "We didn't have that."
That failure proved very costly when Legwand took a feed from Kariya, stickhandled Khabibulin to the ice and scored to make it 4-2 going into the third.
If it was possible for the power play to be even worse, it happened early in the third period. That's when former Hawk Steve Sullivan picked up a loose puck at center ice and broke in alone for a short-handed goal, the third the Hawks have allowed this season.
"We made too many mistakes against a good team," Yawney said.