NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 12: Mattias Ekholm #42 of the Nashville Predators poke checks the puck away from Ben Smith #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena on April 12, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks certainly draw plenty of their own fans with them when playing in Nashville.
Simply playing the defending Stanley Cup champs definitely brings out the best in the Predators this season.
Patric Hornqvist scored the go-ahead goal with 58.2 seconds left and Shea Weber added an empty-netter as the Nashville Predators rallied with five goals in the third period to beat the Blackhawks 7-5 Saturday night in their home finale.
The teams combined to score seven goals in a wild and furious final period. Chicago was up 3-2 going into the third, and Nashville finally put the Blackhawks away with the two goals inside the final minute. Nashville, which also scored seven goals while beating Chicago earlier this season, took the season series 4-1 before an arena about half full of Blackhawks fans.
"I felt that gave us some motivation to let them come and then go home sad," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of the latest win. "That was my goal."
Hornqvist also had an assist. Craig Smith had a goal and an assist. Paul Gaustad, Ryan Ellis, Matt Cullen and Colin Wilson also scored a goal apiece as 12 of 18 Nashville skaters got at least a point.
Ben Smith, Marian Hossa, Matt Carey, Jeremy Morin and Andrew Shaw each scored a goal for Chicago, which finished the season third in the Central Division. The Blackhawks now must wait to see if they are playing either Colorado or St. Louis when the playoffs start. Both teams play Sunday.
"It's going to be interesting," Hossa said. "It'll come down to the last game to decide who we're going to play."
The Predators were eliminated from the postseason for a second straight year with a shootout loss Tuesday night at Dallas, but they now are 8-1-2 over their last 11 games. They certainly didn't quit when they had the chance down 2-0 in the first period or trailing going into the third.
"It's obviously a good sign," Weber said. "There's no quit in this locker room. A lot of character. We knew guys weren't going to quit. It's tough to be out of the postseason, but there is still a lot to play for."
Nashville scored the first two goals of the third as Cullen scored off a rebound at 4:03 followed by Wilson scoring off a rebound of Weber's shot at 7:05. That gave Nashville its first lead of the night at 4-3.
It didn't last long as Morin scored 55 seconds later with a helping hand from Nashville defenseman Roman Josi who was trying to poke it away from the post only to knock it over the line tying it up at 4.
Gaustad put Nashville up 5-4 with 2:55 left only to see Shaw tie it up yet again with a slap shot with 1:35 remaining.
Hornqvist put Nashville ahead to stay when he tipped in a shot by Wilson. With goalie Antti Raanta pulled, Weber sealed the win with his 22nd goal this season.
"Obviously, there are four months until the next home game, but I think it was great for our fans to see what we are all about," Hornqvist said. "When we are playing good, we can beat any team in the league and obviously it will give us some confidence for next year too."
The Blackhawks' faithful did their best to turn this game into a near home game with so much red sitting in the stands, taking advantage of the short flight from Chicago. They turned out even though Chicago was already locked into third in the Central Division, and coach Joel Quenneville scratched defenseman Duncan Keith for a second straight game. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remained out with injuries waiting for the playoffs.
Hossa did not play after the first period after getting his 30th goal this season, which Quenneville discussed with him Saturday morning.
"It was a perfect ending for him," Quenneville said. "He had a nice year for us."