By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators took on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators offense was supplied by the team’s defense as Shane O’Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson scored in regulation. It was the second straight game that needed to go to a shootout for the Predators to secure the win, 4-3.
Chicago opened the scoring in the final minute of play in the first period. Jack Skille scored his first goal of the season with only 53 seconds left in the first.
It was a feisty second period with 18 minutes of penalties called, including 8 minors. Trailing 1-0 going into the second period, Nashville tied the game early at 2:37 into the middle frame. Marcel Goc passed a cross ice feed to an open Shane O’Brien who had moved up on the rush to tap in the puck into the open net. It was O’Brien’s second goal of the season.
The Predators took the lead less than 3 minutes later when Shea Weber scored on the power play with Chicago defenseman Nick Boynton in the box for hooking. Going into the game, the Predators were 2 for the last 42 opportunities on the man advantage. It was Weber’s second goal of the season.
The Predators were unable to maintain the lead for any extended period of play. Viktor Stalberg tied it up with a shot that beat Pekka Rinne high glove side, 6:51 into the second period. It was Stalberg’s fifth goal of the season. Stalberg came over to the Blackhawks from Toronto in the Kris Vertseeg deal during the off season.
Chicago would add another goal before the middle frame was half over, Stille got his second goal of the season and of the night when he beat Rinne with a shot that was high on the glove side from the slot.
The final six minutes of the second period had Nashville on defensive mode. Cody Franson got called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Weber was sent to the box 40 seconds later when he was called for cross-checking Patrick Sharp in the crease, leaving Nashville down two skaters for 1:22 minutes.
The Predators were able to kill off the 5 on 3 man advantage for the Blackhawks on the strength of Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson’s shot blocking abilities with 2 and 3 blocked shots respectively. With the huge penalty kill, the Predators were looking to swing the momentum in their favor, but when Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell decided to pay some extra attention to Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber stepped in to defend his teammate.
It looked like a fight would break out between Weber and Bickell but Bickell lost his footing and went down. Weber, as a result, was called for a four minute roughing double minor.
The Predators were perfect on the penalty kill, shutting out all of the Blackhawks star players. It looked like Nashville tied the game in the opening moments of the third period when Patric Hornqvist appeared to have scored from in front of the net 1:12 into the final period, but the goal was called back because it was determined he kicked it in.
Nashville would tie the game at 9:37 of the third period. Franson scored his fourth of the season from Bouillon and Sullivan.
The game went to overtime where Nashville had an opportunity to end it on the power play. Patrick Kane was called for tripping Martin Erat. On the 4-on-3 man advantage, Nashville had several decent scoring chances, including four shots on goal by Weber, but were unable to capitalize.
The game was sent to the shootout where Rinne has been spectacular posting a 12-5 record before Saturday night’s game.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp was unable to convert on their attempts. O’Reilly shot first for Nashville and ripped the shot passed Marty Turco high.