By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks were able to withstand a rare offensive explosion from the Nashville Predators Friday night. In front of a full house that helped the team celebrate broadcaster Pat Foley’s 30 years with the organization, the ‘Hawks got an overtime game-winner from the stick of Marian Hossa to best Nashville 5-4.
Chicago won its eighth straight game and also swept the Predators in the season series as five different Blackhawks got the puck past Pekke Rinne. Duncan Keith had a three-point evening and opened up the scoring in the fifth minute of action.
Keith’s goal was created with some quality play from Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland, who were on the ice as part of Chicago’s first power play goal in ten games. Toews was able to knock away the puck from Nick Spaling in the Nashville zone. Bolland collected it along the boards and sent it into the corner. Toews got it to Vikor Stalberg, who hit Keith’s tape coming into the slot. The shot went into the right corner of the net at the 4:48 mark to give the ‘Hawks a 1-0 lead.
The Preds tied the score at 6:31 of the first on a Kevin Klein shot on goal that was eventually knocked in by Matt Halischuk. Nashville took the lead midway through the period when Chris Meuller swiped the puck from Keith coming out of the Chicago zone. Corey Crawford lost the shot attempt by Meuller in the crease and couldn’t cover up. In the scrum that followed, Kevin Henderson was credited with knocking the loose puck across the line at 10:42 to make it 2-1 Nashville.
Back came the Blackhawks about three minutes later. Toews brought the puck up the left side into the Predator zone and sent a pass to the middle. Brandon Saad struggled to get a handle on it, but finally took control at the right faceoff circle, got back his own blocked shot and zipped the equalizer past Rinne at the 13:36 mark.
Nashville received a power play early in the second when Patrick Kane sent a clearing attempt over the glass. Crawford made a nice post-to-post save on a Jonathan Blum attempt that helped kill the penalty.
At the mid-point of the contest, Kane put the ‘Hawks back on top. Bryan Bickell swiped the puck from Shea Weber in the neutral zone and drove across the Nashville blue line. Bickell fed Kaner, who five-holed Rinne 9:20 into the second period to give Chicago a 3-2 lead.
A few minutes later, a Victor Bartley stretch pass set up Halischuk for a breakaway attempt. Crawford denied the initial shot, but Halischuck got the rebound and beat Crawford to tie the game at three goals apiece. The score remained knotted going into the second intermission.
Midway through the final period, Michal Handzus picked off Bartley’s pass attempt in the Nashville zone and sent his first goal with the Blackhawks over Rinne’s stick side. That lead held up until the 17th minute, when Bobby Butler got to a rebound of Weber’s shot on goal and drove it past Crawford with just 3:34 to play.
The Blackhawks received a huge advantage in the final seconds as Rich Clune caught Marcus Kruger with a high stick, drawing blood and earning a four-minute penalty. Chicago could not take advantage in the last 45 seconds of regulation, but got the job done in overtime.
With a 4-on-3 advantage, the Blackhawks wasted little time in ending the contest. Chicago set up in the Preds zone and Keith hit Kane at the left dot. Kane sent a pass to Hossa at the other circle and his one-timer 52 ticks in met with twine and secured the win.
-Hossa’s goal was his sixth game-winner of the season, which leads the team.
-Michael Frolik didn’t get into the scoring column, but his forechecking was a big part of the Handzus goal.
-Crawford stopped 23 of 27 Predators shots. It wasn’t has best night in the crease, though he wasn’t flat out terrible.
-Carter Hutton is currently backing up Crow this weekend. The Blackhawks have sewn up the top spot in the Western Conference. Joel Quenneville said after the game that Ray Emery would not be back for Saturday. The organization likes to reward hard-working players. Hutton has been just that in his last two seasons with Rockford. Phoenix is no offensive juggernaut. What say Q gives Hutton his first NHL start Saturday?