(Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks clinched a playoff berth Sunday night with a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately for Nashville, they were unable to amount a point in their home and home with Chicago, despite their best efforts. It now seems next to impossible for the Predators to make a playoff run as there are only nine games remaining in the season.
There were a total of six lead changes throughout the game, if that shows how back and forth the contest was. “We came out slow and gave them the early lead,” said Nick Spaling who scored a goal and an assist.
The Predators were inconsistent during the game playing their best hockey at times and awful at others.
It looked possible to win the game after David Legwand’s goal that gave his team their first lead of the game 6:54 in the third. However, the best from the West came back to win the game with three unanswered goals.
Chicago’s game winner came from youngster Brandon Saad, who capitalized on the rebound Pekka Rinne left. It took two attempts, but because of the lack defensive presence in front, Saad scored.
Nashville’s defense made a mental lapse once again with both Hal Gill and Jonathon Blum losing a battle for the puck to Patrick Kane. Seeing Jonathan Toews breaking into the zone, Kane made an excellent pass to him, as Toews went bar down on Rinne.
Kane put the icing on the cake with an empty netter to qualify for a playoff spot and return to the postseason once more.
On the positive side, the Predators were hanging with the Blackhawks the entire game by trading off goals. It isn’t exactly what a team wants to do against a high powered offensive team like Chicago, but at least they remained in the game and weren’t shutout again.
Nick Spaling snapped Ray Emery’s shutout streak against the Predators after 77:16 of play. Not only did Spaling do that, but he also snapped the Preds’ scoreless streak at 137:16.
“It was great pressure from the start,” said Spaling, who had a goal and an assist Sunday. “[Kostitsyn] stuck with the puck and he made a nice pass to me in the slot and the first one the goalie stopped it and I picked up the rebound and found a way in.”
As usual, Nashville wouldn’t have been in the game without Rinne, who stopped 35 of 39 shots. It was because of his diving save on Bryan Bickell, who scored earlier in the game, attempting a wrap-around that allowed captain Shea Weber to score the two goal equalizer 5:54 in the second.
The Predators now are looking at having to win almost every remaining game on the schedule in order to make the playoffs. It is a tough task, but isn’t impossible.
Welcome Watson: The Predators first round draft choice in 2010 finally had his shot in the NHL and may stay for a few more games. Austin Watson was a little uncomfortable starting the game, as a normal rookie would be, but came into his own as the game progressed. However, it really helped to have some familiar faces in the dressing room while in Chicago.
“It’s nice coming in here, being familiar with some guys that were [in Milwaukee] the whole year,” said Watson. “With Beck, Mueller and Bartley, it is nice to feel a little bit comfortable coming in.”
Watson’s presence was made in front of the net, using his big frame to screen Ray Emery. He totaled 13:47 of ice time centering Craig Smith and Rich Clune, but was a -2.
Another game, another injury: 5:20 in the second period, Brandon Yip was shaken up after an awkward collision in the boards behind Emery. Yip’s right leg bent back as he attempted to get up. The Nashville fourth liner was slow to get to the bench, but did so under his own power. Yip did not return for the rest of the game with a lower body injury.
Goals and Assists
1-0 CHI: Andrew Shaw – Frolik and Hjalmarsson at 6:34 in the 1st
1-1 tie: Nick Spaling – Kostitsyn at 17:16 in the 1st
2-1 CHI: Bryan Bickell – Stalberg and Roszival at 2:09 in the 2nd
2-2 tie: Shea Weber – Spaling at 5:54 in the 2nd
2-3 NSH: David Legwand – Halischuk and Weber at 6:54 in the 3rd
3-3 tie: Brandon Saad – Keith and Toews at 9:37 in the 3rd
4-3 CHI: Jonathan Toews – Kane and Shaw at 10:32 in the 3rd
5-3 CHI: EN Patrick Kane – Saad at 19:28 in the 3rd
My Three Stars of the Game
1. Andrew Shaw: Goal & Assist
2. Jonathan Toews: Goal & Assist
3. Nick Spaling: Goal & Assist
Predators scratches: #12 C Mike Fisher (hand), #28 C Paul Gaustad (groin) and #57 W Gabriel Bourque (upper body)
Blackhawks scratches: #17 D Sheldon Brookbank, #22 W Jamal Mayers and #36 C Dave Bolland (lower body)