Nashville Predators 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3: Preds prevail despite penalties, errors

It wasn’t quite a “Preds prevail despite themselves”, but it wasn’t their cleanest win of the season either.

The Nashville Predators took on the Chicago Blackhawks in a morning game today, with the Preds fighting for playoff positioning and the Blackhawks fighting to ruin their day.

Jeremy Lauzon was injured almost as soon as the game started, as a check from Alex Vlasic sent him down to the ice awkwardly. He had to get some help off the ice, and play resumed with the Preds short a defender. Only a moment or so later, Eeli Tolvanen got the scoring off to an excellent start with a laser past Kevin Lankinen—a classic Tolvanen kind of goal, the kind of thing we’ve missed seeing lately. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks responded with a goal scored by Patrick Kane.

Roman Josi drew a cross-checking penalty from MacKenzie Entwhistle as both teams started to wake up a little, but the Preds’ power play was ineffective. Matt Duchene then opted to high-stick Riley Stillman, drawing blood, and the Preds went to the penalty kill. Some diligent work by Juuse Saros and the penalty killers (and also by Alex DeBrincat, keeping Colton Sissons from a shorthanded 1-on-0) kept the score even.

Apparently emboldened by the previous penalty kill, Duchene then interfered with Taylor Raddysh with 41 seconds left in the first period. Tanner Jeannot and the penalty kill did break in shorthanded in the dying seconds of the period, but were unable to convert before the buzzer sounded; once again, when play resumed after intermission, neither team scored.

Lankinen was tested heavily by the Cousins line a few minutes into the second period, but stood up to the barrage of chances he faced. Unfortunately, some blown defensive coverage by the Preds a moment later left Dominik Kubalik all alone to receive a pass and score past Juuse Saros, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.

The Blackhawks went right back on the attack, and a netfront scuffle resulted in Entwhistle and  Mattias Ekholm being called for coincidental roughing minors, while Boris Katchouk was assessed a misconduct. The arena crew opted to play P!nk’s “So What” as the soundtrack for this, giving some much-needed levity to the afternoon.

While the Blackhawks threatened early in the 4v4, Roman Josi collected an excellent pass from Ryan Johansen and scored to tie the game again, 2-2. It looked as if he did it again a minute later, but Duchene was about half a mile offside on the play—again—and the goal was overturned on a Chicago challenge.

Undaunted, the Preds continued to attack, but with four minutes left in the period a slightly botched line change for them resulted in a call for too many men on the ice.  The Preds’ penalty kill was hemmed in for a while, but got some help from a Blackhawks broken stick.

After the teams had returned to even strength, Filip Forsberg got a great chance, then drew a penalty, and the Preds went to the power play with 48 seconds left in the second period. They would not need all that time, let alone the 1:12 of potential carryover, as Duchene scored just 22 seconds into the power play. Chicago opted not to challenge again for offside, and the goal stood, giving the Preds a 3-2 lead that held as they headed into intermission.

The Preds built on their momentum as the third period began, with Mikael Granlund scoring a little over three minutes in to make it 4-2 and Josi almost but not quite adding to that score while the goal was being announced.

As the period went on, Saros was forced to make a few more high-stakes saves, and eventually one got past him, cutting the Preds’ lead to a single goal as Riley Stillman collected an excellent pass and scored. The Blackhawks continued to push, eventually pulling Lankinen for the extra attacker. Yakov Trenin had possession in the offensive zone, but wasn’t able to get a shot at the net.

Chaos broke out in the neutral zone as the teams battled for possession, with broken sticks piling up on the ice, but while both teams took their shots Saros held on for the win.