The Hawks had their chance to clinch a playoff spot with a point on Sunday night against the Nashville Predators, and although they dominated the game at times a point wasn’t secured until late in the third period and it wasn’t without a little bit of nervous stretches before the Hawks stars sealed the win.
The first period began in dominating fashion for the Blackhawks. At one point the Hawks led 12-3 shots on goal, with Pekka Rinne making big stop after big stop. The best line of the period was the Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, Michael Frolik line and they were finally rewarded with a goal when Frolik shot one from the boards that Shaw was able to tip in for his 8th goal of the season. The Hawks went to the power-play and had many chances including a blast from Patrick Kane, but they came up empty-handed and though dominating the period the kill seemed to give the Predators a jump in their skates. Late in the period a Jonathan Toews pass went right off Johnny Oduya‘s skate and caused a Predators rush that ended up with a Nick Spaling goal and a 1-1 tie. The Hawks out shot the Predators 17-7 for the period but it was all for nothing with a costly turnover that led to a late period goal.
The second period started just like the first period with the Hawks in full control of the action. The Predators had a rare turnover at center ice which led to a Bryan Bickell rush and goal when he put his sneaky wrister between Rinne’s legs for a 2-1 lead. Two things that the Hawks struggle with are faceoffs and powerplays and it was a lost faceoff that led to the tying goal when Shea Weber blasted one past Ray Emery for the equalizer. The Hawks again had plenty of opportunities but Rinne was able to stop all but the Bickell goal. Duncan Keith had two bad turnovers one leading to a great chance but Ray Emery came up big to keep the game tied at two when the horn sounded for the end of the 2nd period.
The third period did not start like the first two with the Predators scoring the first goal of the period when David Legwand broke the tie when he deposited a loose puck in front of Ray Emery into the back of the net. The Hawks turned on the pressure and Coach Q changed up the lines putting Patrick Kane with Toews and Saad and it paid off nicely on this night when Brandon Saad knocked home a rebound to tie the game. It only took 55 seconds later for the Hawks to take the lead for good when Patrick Kane on a rare fore check found a wide open Toews and he put a wicked wrister past Rinne -crossbar-and in the net. Ray Emery had to come up big once late in the period which led to Rinne getting pulled in the final minute and when a Predator shot was knocked down Saad led Kane for the empty netter and final nail in the Predator coffin and 5-3 victory.
-The Hawks are the first team to clinch a playoff spot
-I doubt it is for Coach Q, but I would think that a goalie controversy could be starting in Hawks fans thoughts.
-Michal Handzus continues to help the Hawks at the faceoff circle.
-Johnny Oduya 2/3 week stretch of shaky turnover hockey continued tonight.
-The Hawks play again Tuesday night in Minnesota puck drops at 7 Central.
-Patrick Kane scored his 20th goal and now has 6 straight season with 20 or more goals.
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