It's the best time of year!
As I stated earlier this morning, the Predators went into Chicago with one thing in mind – two points. No matter who was out of the lineup (Pekka Rinne and Martin Erat in this case), they were going to do whatever it took… and they did just that.
Anders Lindback – making his first career start in the NHL – picked up his first win as the Predators tripped up the Blackhawks late, 3-2, to start the season 2-0.
In the first period, the teams didn’t waste any time getting on the board. Patrick Kane’s wicked wrister on the power play led off the scoring at 4:48 (I warned you about him vs. Nashville). Steve Sullivan responded less than two minutes later on a mad scramble near the crease. The goal was created by a great effort from Cal O’Reilly, keeping the puck alive in front.
Later on in the period, at the 16:58, Jonathan Toews capitalized on a nice feed from Tomas Kopecky to beat Lindback, giving Chicago a 2-1 lead at the end of one.
The Predators survived a scoreless second period, where the Blackhawks had a 7-0 shot advantage in the period at one point. Barry Trotz’s club was able to get a couple chances after Chicago’s early flurry but couldn’t beat Corey Crawford, who was solid all night.
Just shy of five minutes into the third period, Colin Wilson’s shot nicked off Jordan Hendry and eluded Crawford to tie the game at 2 apiece. It was a huge goal as you could sense a shift in momentum.
Nashville kept battling and containing Chicago’s attack, and even outshot them 10-4 in the third. The hard work – specifically from Joel Ward and David Legwand’s line – paid off in the end.
Nick Boynton committed a delay-of-game penalty at the worst time possible, putting the Preds on the man advantage with 2:13 left in regulation.
The power play has been the center of attention in Nashville, but they silenced those critics at the most opportune moment. Ward scored with 26.7 seconds remaining to give the Predators a decisive 3-2 edge. J.P. Dumont corralled a pass from Legwand and found a wide-open Ward sitting back-door for the winner.
Lindback was fantastic in his first full game; remember, he played 17 minutes in relief for Rinne on Saturday. He was composed all night, didn’t get rattled after an up-and-down first period for him, and kept the ‘Hawks off the board in their second period barrage.
After the Preds weathered the storm in the first ten minutes of the second, they settled in and slowly took over the game. They had the Blackhawks right where they wanted them, despite trailing 2-1 at the time.
The Preds had this game circled ever since ‘that day’ in Chicago. They went back into the United Center and got the two points they were looking for (in regulation, I must point out). Coach Trotz couldn’t have scripted it any better.
For the Blackhawks, it’s back to the drawing board. They were without their second pairing of Brian Campbell (injured) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (suspended), and still haven’t quite clicked offensively – which was expected. It’s certainly a tough loss, but they have an opportunity Friday and Saturday to get back on track.
Nashville hosts St. Louis right away tomorrow night, then Washington on Saturday, to complete a solid litmus-test week.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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