The Chicago Blackhawks scored on their two most important shots of the game on Saturday night, with Johnny Oduya scoring on the first shot of the game and Jonathan Toews scoring on the last as they beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-1 at the United Center.
Former Blackhawk Carter Hutton made 35 saves in a losing effort for the Predators, and current Hawks goalie Corey Crawford made 19 saves as the team moved to 3-0-1 on the young season. Shea Weber scored the only goal of the game for Nashville on a first period power play.
As the game opened up, the Hawks’ struggles to score despite a slew of chances Wednesday were quickly forgotten as Oduya scored less than two minutes into the contest. After Bryan Bickell and Niklas Hjalmarsson moved the puck across the ice to the defenseman, he stepped across the blue line and uncorked a slapshot from the top of the face-off circle. Hutton couldn’t quite get his leg pads together fast enough, and just like that the Blackhawks went up 1-0 in the game.
A couple of good defensive plays by the Blackhawks kept things going in their favor over the next few minutes, and their defensive dominance was a theme that was repeated through most of the game. Daniel Carcillo made a good play to break up a cross-ice saucer pass after Jeremy Morin was taken down along the boards, and Trevor van Riemsdyk made another nice play a few minutes later as he tied up Seth Jones on a semi-breakaway toward the Chicago net.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, their defensive play didn’t translate into an overall disciplined approach, and it cost them with about nine minutes left in the first. With penalties to Andrew Shaw and Hjalmarsson giving Nashville a power play, Weber unleashed a slap shot from in close that deflected off of Michal Rozsival’s skate and into the top of the net to tie things up at 1-1.
The Blackhawks did get another power play a few minutes later, but in what is becoming a recurring theme, they were unable to score. They did hold Nashville to just three shots on goal in the period, but with Weber’s tally things were tied at 1-1 at the end of the first period.
The second period started out in much the same way as the first, with the Hawks playing solid defense and getting good offensive chances at the other end of the ice. Marcus Kruger found Hjalmarsson open in front of the net with a quick pass, but the defenseman couldn’t corral it in time to get an effective shot off, getting stopped by Hutton. A few moments later, Oduya made a solid defensive play as he tied up James Neal on the rush to prevent Nashville from getting an easy cscoring chance.
After another stellar play by van Riemsdyk to keep Derek Roy from finding an open man with a pass, the Hawks went back on the power play and couldn’t convert again. In fact, they failed three consecutive times on the man-advantage in the second period, with penalties to Viktor Stalberg, Filip Forsberg, and Mike Ribeiro all going unpunished.
Duncan Keith committed a penalty late in the second to give Nashville a power play chance, but good defense kept the Predators from mounting much of a charge as the game remained tied at 1-1 through two periods.
As the third got underway, the Hawks’ first line continued to churn out chances, but to no avail. Marian Hossa carried the puck in on a 3-on-1 rush early in the frame, but his pass across to Toews was timed just a touch too late, and the shot was hurried and ineffective.
After that play, the Predators generated a couple of great chances of their own in the ensuing few minutes, but Crawford was there to save the day. On a 2-on-0 chance in front, Colin Wilson fed a pass across the zone to Craig Smith, but Crawford kicked out his right leg pad to make the save. A few minutes later, Crawford had to come out of the net to challenge a wrist shot by Weber, but his blocker was able to knock the shot aside and keep the game tied.
Patrick Sharp racked up a few chances in the closing minutes of regulation, but the Hawks couldn’t convert. He blasted a shot on Hutton from in close, but the rebound barely evaded a crashing Toews. With 30 seconds remaining, Sharp had another shot on net, and once again Toews couldn’t corral it. Despite outshooting the Predators 34-17 in regulation, the Hawks once again had to settle for overtime as the game remained tied.
In the overtime period, Sharp once again took center stage, but this time it was for the wrong reasons as he was sent to the box for tripping Ryan Ellis. Fortunately for Sharp and the Hawks, the team’s captain was there to pick up the pieces, as he scored the game-winner. When Smith tried to drop a pass back to Roman Josi at the point, Toews intercepted the pass, pushed it up ice, and got two shots on goal. The first was saved by Hutton, but when the rebound squirted out to the top of the crease, Toews tapped it in and gave the Hawks a 2-1 win.
The Blackhawks will wrap up a four game homestand on Tuesday night when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the United Center.