Nashville Predators pull away in the 3rd, beat Chicago 4-1

Late goals by Jordin Tootoo and Joel Ward sealed the victory tonight for the Nashville Predators as they won in Chicago tonight, 4-1. Dan Ellis made 34 saves for his second strong effort in a row, on a night when 9 different Preds hit the scoresheet.

You can click above for the photo gallery, and after the jump we've got video highlights, the recap, and advanced even-strength statistics...

Early on, it appeared that the Preds would be doing well just to hang around in this game. Jonathan Toews put on a clinic giving the Blackhawks the 1-0 lead, deking through Dan Hamhuis for the score. Hamhuis earned his redemption just minutes later, however, firing a puck that came up the boards past Cristobal Huet to even the game at 1-1 heading into the first intermission. Chicago carried most of the play, however, with a Shots on Goal advantage of 15-6 after the first period.

In the second, the Preds established good pressure early on, despite losing Kevin Klein for a time after he took an awkward tumble into the endboards. As part of several strong shifts by the line of Martin Erat, Marcel Goc and Jordin Tootoo, Toots gathered in a loose puck and fired it towards the front of the net, where it deflected off Erat's skate for the goal (which stood after a brief video review). The Blackhawks poured it on from there, constantly backing the Nashville defense in and getting several good chances which Dan Ellis turned aside.

In the third, that momentum was still largely in Chicago's favor as the Preds kept backing in and defending the core of their zone, trying to keep the Blackhawks to the outside. Ellis made several excellent stops while not allowing any rebound opportunities, something he's been prone to in the past.

On a rare rush the other way in the final minutes, Tootoo scored just his second goal of the season, blasting a shot by Huet, who looked shaky when the Preds did get their chances. Preds fans didn't even have much time to breathe a sigh of relief, however, as Joel Ward banged home a pass from David Legwand just 35 seconds later to push the lead to 4-1, and a surprising runaway victory for Nashville.

Team discipline once again played a critical role; despite playing a division rival and having to deal with speedy, skilled players buzzing around the offensive zone, the Predators only had to kill off one penalty all night, which they did successfully.

Hamhuis, Erat and Tootoo all ended the night with a goal and an assist each, with six other players nabbing a point including Cal O'Reilly getting his first assist of the season on the Hamhuis goal.

Looking at the even-strength stats, it's no surprise to see lots of negative numbers; Chicago is an excellent skating team that tips the shot totals heavily in their favor on a consistent basis (tonight the shots were 35-23 for the Hawks). What jumps out to me is the performance of that Tootoo-Goc-Erat line, which clearly had a great night.

 Even Strength Individual Totals Team Totals While Player Is On Ice
 Player Pos EV TOI Shots Shts Blkd Missed Shts Blocks SOG For SOG Ag SOG +/- Tot SF Tot SA Corsi
 Jason Arnott C 14:52 2 0 0 0 5 8 -3 9 14 -5
 Steve Sullivan L 14:22 0 0 0 0 4 8 -4 7 13 -6
 J P Dumont R 13:26 0 0 0 1 1 7 -6 3 12 -9
 David Legwand C 16:21 1 0 0 0 4 11 -7 7 14 -7
 Jerred Smithson R 16:34 1 1 0 0 4 9 -5 7 14 -7
 Joel Ward R 16:40 1 0 1 0 5 10 -5 8 14 -6
 Marcel Goc C 14:11 2 1 0 2 10 8 2 12 15 -3
 Martin Erat R 14:06 1 2 0 0 13 10 3 17 16 1
 Jordin Tootoo R 14:01 4 0 1 0 11 8 3 13 15 -2
 Cal O'Reilly C 8:49 0 0 0 0 2 4 -2 4 7 -3
 Patric Hornqvist R 8:24 2 0 0 0 4 2 2 6 5 1
 Ryan Jones L 7:42 0 0 0 1 2 4 -2 4 7 -3
 Shea Weber D 19:37 0 1 0 2 10 11 -1 14 20 -6
 Ryan Suter D 23:02 2 0 1 1 11 12 -1 15 22 -7
 Kevin Klein D 17:19 0 0 1 2 4 12 -8 9 18 -9
 Francis Bouillon D 18:22 0 1 0 0 1 12 -11 6 18 -12
 Dan Hamhuis D 17:46 1 0 0 1 10 11 -1 12 16 -4
 Cody Franson D 12:26 0 0 1 0 6 6 0 8 8 0
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