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Blackhawks Pummel the Predators and Win 3-1!

By Ericka McFee
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Dec 6, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left winger Brandon Saad (20) celebrates with teammates after a goal during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Blackhawks Pummel the Predators and Win 3-1!

What a difference a week makes.

Heading into Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, the Hawks were coming off a successful road trip but still sat in 3rd place in the Central Division. Then fell the Blues. And last night, the Montreal Canadiens. The only team standing in the way between the Hawks and 1st place in the Central Division: the Nashville Predators.

The previous meeting between the two teams didn’t turn out so well for the Hawks. The Preds eked out a 3-2 victory at home on October 23. But the white-hot Hawks were looking to even the score and extend their five-game win streak. Mission accomplished, thanks to some players who have their groove back and excellent work in net by Chicago-area native Scott Darling.

Here’s the breakdown of the action:

FIRST PERIOD

Score the final and game-winning goal the night before, score the first goal in the subsequent game? No big deal. But only if your name happens to be Brandon Saad.

Around five minutes into the period, Duncan Keith forced a turnover, allowing Saad to take the puck and bury a wrist shot to the far side.

The Hawks did an excellent job of sustaining offensive zone time while containing the Preds offense for the first 20 minutes. They had one power play and one penalty kill; we won’t talk about the former, but the latter continues to be excellent at over 90% (good for 1st in the NHL on the PK).

Also noteworthy was the high stick (with subsequent non-call) that Bryan Bickell got to the face, providing some fuel to his fire in the next period.

SECOND PERIOD

Marian Hossa had been on a bit of a scoring drought prior to this game, but when it rains, it pours. Saad made an excellent pass to Hossa, who found a wide open net just under 3 minutes into the period. It was the 4th goal of the season for Big Hoss.

About halfway through, Bickell and Preds’ Victor Bartley entered into a pugilistic disagreement, ending up with fighting majors for each. But the Hawks would still get the man advantage since Seth Jones was called for interference against Bryan Bickell. Unfortunately, they could’t convert. The teams headed for their respective locker rooms with a 2-0 score favoring the Hawks.

This had to be one of the best 2nd periods the Hawks have had all season, hands down. The Hawks normally take a bit of a nosedive in the middle frame, then rally in the 3rd. Tonight seemed to be a inverse of that situation.

THIRD PERIOD

Surely someone, somewhere, must have uttered the word “shutout.” But whatever the case may have been, a shutout wasn’t in the cards for Darling tonight. Preds forward Colin Wilson scored 34 seconds into the period with a shot from the top of the circle. With heavy traffic in front of the net, Darling couldn’t get a very good read or see the puck well.

One has to hand it to the Preds in that they don’t go down without putting up a pretty good fight. That was quite apparent in the 3rd. Defense had to block shots like there was no tomorrow, while Darling practically stood on his head to make some highlight reel-worthy saves.

However, they didn’t count on Hossa. Faced with a one goal deficit, the Preds decided to go for an extra attacker and an empty net. Apparently they forgot about how ridiculously good he can be in situations where another team has more men on the ice than the Hawks. He leveraged this to his full advantage, scoring his second goal of the night on an empty net.

  • It was the Hossa, Saad, and Darling Show tonight. Hossa had 2 goals (and a game-high 7 shots on goal), Saad had a goal and an assist, and Darling saved 32 of 33 shots (.970 SV%).
  • Also noteworthy: defenseman Klas Dahlbeck made his NHL debut tonight, getting 12:24 of ice time, and recording a hit and a blocked shot. Coach Quenneville was pleased with his performance, so it looks like he could be around for at least the next couple of games.
  • The Hawks improve their record to 18-8-1, with 6 consecutive wins (9 in the last 10 games), and take 1st place in the Central Division (6th in the league).
  • They’ll continue their stretch of road games next Tuesday, when they face the New Jersey Devils. Patrick Sharp will likely return to the lineup after having missed 14 straight games.

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