Brandon Saad’s strong rookie season continued with a goal tonight against the Nashville Predators. (PHOTO: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
The Nashville Predators came into tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks in desperate need of points in the standings. They weren’t able to grab both points tonight against the best team in the Western Conference, but they did steal one to keep their slim playoff chances alive.
The Preds actually played Chicago pretty tight for most of the first period. It was a relatively clean period of hockey with no penalties at all (though Dan Carcillo escaped punishment on a nasty hit – see the observations below). It was very nearly a scoreless period as well. But Brandon Saad put Chicago on the board at 19:48, firing a shot from the left wing that hit something before bouncing past Pekka Rinne to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.
A bad decision by Jon Blum led to a goal by Patrick Kane. (PHOTO: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
Nashville ended the first period down 9-7 in shots, but they were down 27-11 by the end of the second after Chicago turned up the heat. The Blackhawks ran every aspect of the game in the second period and finally doubled their lead at 12:10 when Jonathon Blum made a bad decision to pinch playing 4-on-4. Nick Leddy found Patrick Kane, who blew through the neutral zone and up the right wing with Jonathan Toews moving down through the slot. Kane fired and handcuffed Pekka Rinne glove-side to make it a 2-0 Blackhawks advantage.
As much as they outplayed the Nashville Predators, though, the Blackhawks were unable to pick up any more goals thanks to some stellar play from Pekka Rinne. And once the third period began, their fatigue from blowing out Detroit 7-1 the previous night began to show.
Nashville came out highly motivated, knowing that a loss in regulation would all but kill their season. And then they suddenly found themselves in the game after David Legwand scored a very Legwand sort of goal. Kevin Klein tried to hit Leggy with a bomb pass, but it tipped off #11’s stick in the neutral zone; the puck went in on Corey Crawford at high speed, and when he tried to cover up Legwand skated by and poked at it with his stick, putting it away at 3:56 to make the score 2-1.
Nashville kept up the pressure and with it tied the game at 7:26. On a failed zone clear, Patric Hornqvist came away with the puck and broke in on Crawford. He dished left to Taylor Beck, who fired on goal. Crawford made the initial save, but Beck put away the rebound to make it a 2-2 game.
The Preds continued to play well throughout the third, outshooting Chicago 15-9. And Pekka Rinne continued to shine, too, stopping every shot put on him during the period to force overtime. He played well there, too, stopping another four shots to take the game to a shootout.
Pekka wasn’t able to win the game there, but he did keep the Preds alive after biting hard on Jonathan Toews’ deke in the first round. Two big saves set up, plus a Craig Smith score to tie it in the second round, sent it to sudden death. The game ended when Michal Rozsival scored in the fifth round and Taylor Beck couldn’t match.
Pekka did everything he could tonight to give his team a chance to win. (PHOTO: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
Pekka Rinne saved 38 of the 40 shots he faced tonight, including some real show-stoppers in the second period. If any of those had gone in I don’t think the Preds could have come back. All credit to the giant Finn for doing everything he could to extend a lifeline to his teammates.