The Blackhawks and Predators killed nearly the 1/6th of the game without a stoppage of play, and before long, the back-and-forth play finally produced a goal. Ben Smith knocked in his first goal of the year right in front of Pekka Rinne, and the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead with seven minutes to play. When Marcus Kruger took a high-sticking penalty, many found out about an interesting stat; the Predators’ power-play has as many goals as the Blackhawks’ penalty-kill this season; two. The ‘Hawks killed the penalty off without facing a shot, but James Neal would put the Predators on the board with 49 seconds to play in the period, with a snapshot that fooled Antti Raanta. Raanta’s shutout streak stopped at just over 79 minutes, letting in the 45th shot of the season. The teams would hold a tie at 1 goal each, as the horn buzzed to end the frame.
The second period started the same way as the first, with the first several minutes flying by without any memorable action. The Blackhawks found themselves in the penalty box again, when Brent Seabrook took a slashing call behind the play in the defensive zone. Chicago’s penalty-kill was up to the task, however, and before long, it was the Blackhawks on the either side of the special-teams coin, with Mattias Ekholmtaking the Preds’ first penalty of the game. The Blackhawks put four shots on net, and directed many more in that direction, but the Predators and Pekka Rinne held strong. As the penalty was killed and the puck went the other way, Neal sniped his second goal of the game, putting the home team up 2-1. It would stay that way until the end of the period, as the Predators held the lead after 40 minutes.
There was no slow start for the third period, and James Neal once again delivered the goods for the Music City fans. A point shot ended right on his tape, and with a wide open net, he made no mistake burying the goal for a natural hat-trick, the 5th of his career. The Blackhawks were in an unfamiliar position, down two goals, but not for lack of trying. The ‘Hawks put several grade-A chances towards Pekka Rinne, but could not solve the Predators goaltender through the first 10 minutes of the period. It seemed only a matter of time, however, and Andrew Shaw answered with his third goal of the season, knocking the puck over the shoulder of Rinne with 7 minutes to go. The Blackhawks threw everything they had at Rinne in the remaining time, but simply couldn’t find the net, as the Predators skated away with the 3-2 win.
In the crease, Rinne was the clear winner, stopping 31 of 32 en route to a second-star performance. At the other end, Antti Raanta stopped 24 of 27 for a .889% save percentage.
Neal stole the show with the fifth hat-trick on his career, ironically, on a night where his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, gave up three unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 loss.
The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season, and are now 4-1-1. The Predators are now the only team without a regulation loss to their credit, with a 5-0-2 record.
The Blackhawks have a day off before playing the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, in the first game of a back-to-back ending Sunday at the United Center.