By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night, 3-2 in a shootout in front of a soldout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
The Madhouse wasn’t on Madison but instead on Broadway from the middle of the third period until the end of the shootout. “The crowd was going crazy. It was such a good atmosphere going into overtime and the shootout,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said after the game.
Jerred Smithson scored 9:46 into the third period to get Nashville on the scoreboard. (Associated Press)
Rinne picked up the win in goal for Nashville and is now 14-11-4 on the season. With back-to-back shutouts, rookie netminder Corey Crawford went 176:11 before allowing a goal in the third period.
Crawford wasn’t concerned with his shutout streak and was disappointed to not get the two points. “I don’t care — I could care less. As long as we get two points. At least we came out of this one with one. I think we could have had two there.”
The Blackhawks opened the scoring on their first power play opportunity of the game. Patric Hornqvist was sent to the box for boarding Jack Skille. During the penalty kill, Joel Ward had a short handed breakaway but was unable to connect.
With just 16 seconds left in the penalty, Tomas Kopecky scores his eighth goal of the campaign to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Dave Bolland and Brian Campbell picked up the assists on the play.
The Blackhawks owned the second period, outworking, outplaying and outshooting the Predators 14-5.
Nashville had two power play opportunities but was unable to generate any offense on either man advantage and it was Chicago that added to its lead early in the middle frame.
Viktor Stalberg scored his seventh goal of the year when he banked a shot off the back of goaltender Pekka Rinne to take the 2-0 lead 4:29 into the middle frame. Jake Dowell and Jack Skille picked up assists on the play.
The Blackhawks had a great opportunity to put the game out of reach for Nashville with Andreas Thuresson in the box with only 2:58 left in the second period for high-sticking Brent Seabrook. Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp had an open net with the puck on his stick but elected to pass instead of getting what would almost certainly have been a goal.
Rinne wasn’t sure why Sharp decided to pass the puck instead of take the shot. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him. I thought that he had the empty net. I was just preparing to try to dive there and get something in front.”
The Predators got back into the game during the third period, scoring 9:46 into the final frame when Jerred Smithson cut the lead in half. The Predators continued to put on the pressure but didn’t find the equalizer until after a tv timeout.
Smashville got on their feet and cheered for their Predators throughout the entire tv timeout. The noise from the stands was deafening. On the faceoff immidiately after play resumed, Jerred Smithson won the draw, sent the puck back to Shea Weber who then sent a bullet right past Crawford to tie the game at 2 a piece.
Smithson says it’s always a good thing to utilize Weber’s slap shot. “Anytime you have a guy with a shot like that, you want to utilize it. You just battle hard and try to win that draw. The way he shoots the puck anything can happen, and he found a way to put a goal in.”
There were no goals to end the third period or in overtime.
Rinne stopped all three Blackhawks shooters in the shootout and Marcel Goc scored on his attempt to give Nashville the 3-2 win.
Nashville now leads the season series between the two teams 3-1. Sunday night, the Predators and Blackhawks meet again in Chicago.
Additional Game Notes:
Shane O’Brien wasn’t in the lineup for Nashville Saturday night. He was serving the first of a two game suspension and will not play on Sunday either.
It was the first game back for Marty Erat. Erat played 16:10 minutes in total ice time.
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