Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blackhawks escape Nashville with dramatic victory

The Chicago Blackhawks were able to hold on for a huge 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. Chicago held a 4-0 lead in the second period, but the Predators battled back to tie the game at four. However, Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal for the Blackhawks at 8:19 of the third period to clinch their fourth straight playoff berth.

After Viktor Stalberg scored the fourth goal of the game for the Blackhawks in the second period, it looked like the Predators were down and out. However, as they have proven on several occasions already this season, the Predators are never out of a game. Nashville didn't get the two points, but they did prove to the rest of the NHL that they are never out of a game.

"It was good to come back, but then we have to shut down the game and really focus in on details. We don't have to go for 5-4 right away. We have to play detailed and we didn't do that, and they came back and scored the fifth goal. It ended up being the game-winner," Predators forward Patric Hornqvist said.

Chicago got on the board just 3:25 into the first period while on the power play. Patrick Sharp scored his 32nd goal of the season to put the Blackhawks up 1-0, which sent the well-represented Chicago faithful inside Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy. Corey Crawford was sensational in net for the Blackhawks for the remainder of the first period, stopping several point blank chances by Nashville.

"It was nice to have that goal to start the game, especially with the crowd. It was a fun crowd to play in front of, probably 50-50 fans, a lot of red jerseys. So it was pretty fun," said Chicago forward Patrick Kane.

Dave Bolland, Patrick Kane and Stalberg all added goals for the Blackhawks less than 10 minutes into the second period to give them a commanding 4-0 lead. Nashville regrouped and finally got one past Crawford when Martin Erat sniped a quick wrist shot from the top of the circle. Shea Weber added another goal just 49 seconds later to bring the Predators within two heading into the third period.

At 4:38 of the third period, Alexander Radulov brought the Predators within one goal on a jaw-dropping goal that made the Chicago defense look silly. He dangled his way past two Chicago defenders and was able to backhand the puck past Crawford for the highlight-reel goal.

Weber added his second goal of the game on a bomb from the point while on the power play at 7:10 of the third period to tie the game for the Predators. However, Seabrook would score 1:09 later to give the Blackhawks the lead they wouldn't relinquish. Nashville put forth a good effort to get back in the game, but the Blackhawks prevailed in the end.

Special teams was key tonight. The Predators took six penalties in the game, and Chicago was able to capitalize with two power play goals.

"Sometimes you take some penalties and sometimes you don't. We know we have a good PK, but they were strong on the power play and that was the difference tonight," Hornqvist said.

The atmosphere inside of Bridgestone Arena was electric. Chicago fans were all over the place, and that energy added to the game. Things got chippy throughout the game, and Hornqvist often found himself lying on his back after a play was over. It's something he's become accustomed to seeing.

"It's just a part of the game. I'm going to the hard areas, and you have to get used to getting hit after the whistle. Sometimes the ref calls it and sometimes not. You have to keep doing it and hopefully I can score some goals," Hornqvist said.

After playing nine road games in the month of March, the Predators will be home for their next two games. Nashville will get a little time to rest their bodies without having to get on a plane until Friday. The Predators will host the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

"It's great to be home. We know we have probably one of the best fans in the league right now. They're crazy, and they're really supporting us so it's great to be home. We have to win some games here at home," Hornqvist said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Brent Seabrook(CHI)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Brent Seabrook(CHI)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow us on Twitter @hockeynightNSH



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