The Predators welcomed division rival Chicago to town on Saturday in what turned out to be a fantastic game, with the home team coming out on top 4-3 in a shootout.
No one player led the Preds to victory; it was a classic 20-men-for-60-minutes effort out of them in this one. The special teams stepped up at key moments, while Pekka Rinne closed the door in the end.
Right at the opening drop of the puck, the Preds came out with a lot of jump in front of a sellout crowd. Cal O’Reilly and Patric Hornqvist missed chances not 10 seconds in, and they kept that pressure up throughout the first five-plus minutes.
The ‘Hawks struck first with 52.9 seconds remaining when Jack Skille’s wrister from the high slot found the back of the net. The goal was set up nicely by Brian Campbell.
The second period had everything you wanted if you were a fan – goals, hits, emotion, etc.
Just 2:37 into the second frame, Marcel Goc’s beautiful cross-ice feed setup a wide-open Shane O’Brien to tie the game at one. Less than three minutes later, Shea Weber gave the Preds a 2-1 lead with his patented slap shot.
However, Chicago had a quick response. Viktor Stalberg tied the game 6:51 into the second with a snap-shot that eluded Rinne. Skille notched his second tally of the night with a similar shot from a difficult angle, giving the ‘Hawks a 3-2 lead.
Late in the period, the Preds were forced to kill off a 5-on-3 power play for the ‘Hawks. Nashville was successful as they contained a unit that was ranked third in the NHL coming into the game. Shortly thereafter, the Preds killed another ‘Hawks man advantage, one that carried over into the third.
At the 1:12 mark of the third period, Nashville thought they had tied the game at three; but Hornqvist clearly kicked in the loose puck in front, resulting in the goal being waved off.
Shortly after killing off another Chicago power play, Cody Franson’s tricky wrister from the point found its way past Marty Turco to tie the game with 9:37 remaining. Turco was screened perfectly by Hornqvist.
For the rest of regulation, both teams traded chances in great back-and-forth action.
In overtime, Patrick Kane committed a tripping penalty, giving Nashville a golden opportunity. They had many chances to beat Turco (including four shots from Weber), but couldn’t quite the puck across the line.
The game headed to a shootout where Rinne has historically been comfortable and successful. O’Reilly’s tally was the only one Nashville needed as Rinne stopped Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to give the Preds a big victory, their second in a row.
- Sandwiched in between nine road games, the Preds came up with a big win at home win against a budding rival. In fact, it was their first home win since Oct. 14 when they beat St. Louis.
- You could really sense that budding rivalry in the air tonight. There were numerous exchanges and ‘board meetings’, along with a fight between Francis Bouillon and Nick Boynton. There was also a boatload of Chicago fans in the crowd, making it a fun atmosphere in the building.
- Ryan Suter returned from his knee injury and didn’t look close to 100 percent. He actually left midway through the first, but finished the final two periods. With that said, his presence brings a calmness to the defense that isn’t there when he’s out of the lineup.
- All three goals for the Predators came from defensemen – O’Brien, Weber and Franson.
- The penalty kill came up huge, killing off all four ‘Hawks power plays, all at key times.
- The Preds outshot Chicago 15-6 between the third period and overtime, almost willing their way to victory. They held a 34-32 edge, overall, in the shots department.
- After wins on Thursday and Saturday, the Preds are now a combined against the Blues and Blackhawks.
Barry Trotz on the win:
“I loved our resiliency, I love our effort. We didn’t have any passengers. Right through the bench, everybody was pushing the envelope and playing really solid hockey. That’s how we’re going to win, plain and simple.”
Trotz on special teams:
“I thought we got a lot of chances on the special teams, even from the power play where got a goal. But the penalty kill was outstanding. One guy in particular I thought was fantastic was Jerred Smithson… that’s Predator right there.”
Trotz on the 5-on-3 kill:
“It was sort of a defining moment, because we were playing on the edge. At that point when we killed it off, I knew we were going to find a way to get two points tonight.”
O’Brien on Goc setting up his goal:
“It was unbelievable. I kind of made eye contact with him right when he got the puck. I just kind of slid down and he took care of the rest. He slid it through the box and I had that wide open net so I just snapped it home.”
Bouillon on the win:
“Huge win for the team. It’s never an easy team to play against… they’ve got great forwards, defensemen, goaltenders. Saturday night at home, you have to play well for the fans and it was great to come back at home and it’s a huge win for us.”
Bouillon on his fight:
“Those physical games, sometimes you get it going. It’s not that I like it, but when it’s time to go I’m going to back up anybody on my team, and that’s the type of player I am.”
Franson on the win:
“They are a team we are competing with and every year they’re at the top of the pack. You know, any time you can get points against them it’s going to help you in that process.”
Again, this was a pretty big win for the Preds as they picked up their second straight win over a divisional foe. Especially with the upcoming road trip, it was important to wrap up two points and take advantage of a struggling Blackhawks club. There were a few momentum changes, which made it a fun game to take in.
Trotz’s gang will head to Toronto and Montreal this week before finishing off the trip in Carolina and Columbus. There a lot of Toronto and Montreal natives that will be fired up to play in those arenas, so expect the team to play well north of the border this week.