They may have just played against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, but the Nashville Predators looked fresh as daisies on Saturday, knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 7-2 at Bridgestone Arena.
Former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg scored a goal for the Predators, and Marek Mazanec made 38 saves as the Predators ended a four game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Hawks lost goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to a first period injury after he’d given up two quick goals, and despite goals by Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri, Chicago couldn’t quite get back into the game.
Early on in the first period, the Predators got on the board quickly. On a 3-on-2 rush, Duncan Keith attempted to break up a shot attempt by Craig Smith, but whiffed on it. Unfortunately, that dive likely screened Khabibulin, and he was only able to get a glove on the shot. It popped out, and before Khabibulin could dive on it, Matt Cullen sprawled out on the ice and tapped it in to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
A minute later, the Predators struck again. On a rush, Smith found Nick Spaling with a pass, and he fired a good wrist shot past Khabibulin’s glove, and Nashville grabbed a 2-0 lead.
Shortly after that play, Khabibulin went to his left to try to stop a shot that was going wide of the net, and he ended up laying facedown on the ice in obvious pain. He did make a save while prone on the ice, but he had to be removed from the game with a lower body injury, and Corey Crawford ended up coming in to finish off the game.
Unfortunately, the Hawks weren’t able to give Crawford much more offensive support in the rest of the period. All total, the Hawks only managed seven shots on goal in that first period, and they trailed 2-0 at the intermission.
The second period started with some more jump for the Hawks, as they shuffled up their lines to generate some spark. Patrick Kane ended up on the top line with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, but unfortunately for Chicago, none of the combinations worked. Back-to-back penalties from Kris Versteeg and Brandon Bollig ended up proving costly near the halfway point of the period, as Patric Hornqvist deflected a shot from Roman Josi at the point to give the Predators a 3-0 lead.
Late in the second, the Predators picked up yet another goal, as Marcus Kruger lazily tossed a pass across the ice that was snared by Cullen. He found Smith in front of Crawford, and it was an easy deke and score for Smith’s third point of the night to give Nashville a 4-0 advantage.
The Hawks did show a bit of life at the end of the period as Kane beat Nashville defenseman Seth Jones in the neutral zone on a nice little juke, and exploded up the ice and beat Mazanec five-hole to breathe some life into the Blackhawks going into the second intermission.
The third period started out in much the same way as the second ended, with the Hawks driving hard up the ice and pinching in defensemen all over the place to try to create offense. At the end of a power play, that swarming style ended up paying off, as Brent Seabrook caught a pass from Kris Versteeg and fired a shot on Mazanec. The puck bounced off his leg pad, but Pirri was there to collect the puck and scored to bring Chicago to within a 4-2 margin.
Unfortunately for Chicago, that two-goal deficit became three just 15 seconds later, as Niklas Hjalmarsson took a bad angle on Gabriel Bourque in the neutral zone, and Bourque found a streaking Stalberg with a pass, and the former Hawk didn’t miss as he put Nashville up 5-2. Mike Fisher followed that up six minutes later with yet another goal, as Hornqvist stripped the puck from a blissfully unaware Michal Rozsival to put Nashville up 6-2. Finally, the Predators put one more nail in the coffin, as Shea Weber scored a power play tally thanks to a screen in front by Hornqvist, and the Predators ended up with their 7-2 margin of victory.
Things won’t get any easier for the Hawks on Sunday night, as they will take on the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.