Blackhawks claim 3-2 shootout win over Predators

The Blackhawks earned a win in the shootout Monday, and in the process, gave a point to Nashville. The Predators now sit just two points out of a playoff berth with 12 games remaining in their regular season schedule - three more of which will be against Chicago.

During the first and second periods, Chicago dominated most of the play, outshooting Nashville 27-11.

It was reflected on the score sheet as well. Brandon Saad put in the Blackhawks on the board with just 12 seconds left in the first period. Patrick Kane made it 2-0 with 7:50 left in the second.

In the third, however, the Blackhawks did what they've done a few too many times lately: instead of putting their feet on the necks of their opponents, they've found themselves a bit on their heels, letting the other team back into the game.

photo by Cheryl Adams / HockeyBroadJust shy of the four minute mark in the third, David Legwand kept after a play when it looked like Corey Crawford had covered the puck, managing to poke it underneath the Chicago goaltender and scoring. The play gave the Predators life, and they began pushing back hard against the Blackhawks.

Nashville outshot Chicago 15-9 in the third, and tied up the game on a Taylor Beck goal.

The Blackhawks took the upper hand in overtime, outshooting the Predators 4-1, but it was also clear that Nashville realized they had the opportunity to take the game.

Chicago ended up with the win, however -- surprisingly, on a Michal Rozsival goal in the shootout. Crawford outbattled Predators goalie Pekka Rinne by turning away four of Nashville's five shooters.

Crawford recognized that the first Predators goal gave them a lot of momentum. But it was his play after the second goal and in the shootout that got Chicago the win. He acknowledged after the game that in previous seasons, those two goals might have influenced his play enough to result in a loss. Not so this season, with his changes to how he approaches each game.

Team captain Jonathan Toews recognized part of the issue after the game. "It's a reoccuring theme lately with teams coming at us hard in the third period. We have to make sure it's our best period going forward.... we gotta play right until the end."

Patrick Kane echoed those thoughts. "I think we relaxed a little bit [in the third], and they took advantage... Obviously not the recipe for success... I'm sure it's something the coaches will address once again."

The key word there is "again". It is an issue that has plagued the Blackhawks over the past two seasons. It has resurfaced occasionally this season, but early in this season, the historic winning streak took attention away from any flaws the team might have been showing.

Additionally, the rest of the league has finally caught up with Chicago - not only in terms of conditioning, but in the league standings as well. There are other teams who can keep up with the Blackhawks swift skaters. They've studied the Blackhawks and figured out their flaws. Teams have figured out how to get the Hawks back on their heels; they've figured out how to best frustrate Chicago's players.

So where the Hawks seemed to win any game, any way it was played, early in the season, they have instead begun dropping points. It is something the players must address and fix going forward, especially as the playoffs are so close in such a shortened season.

The Predators have three games against Chicago remaining in the next 18 days. Chicago will travel to Nashville on Saturday, April 6th; the last two games (4/7 & 4/19) are in Chicago.

Seven of Chicago's remaining games are against Central division rivals, mostly against Nashville and St. Louis. Their performance against these division rivals through the end of season not only can strongly influence whether either of those teams - especially Nashville - make the playoffs, but may help propel Columbus into the 8th spot in the West.

Chicago forward Dave Bolland was injured during the game and is listed as "day to day".

In other Blackhawks news today, the team acquired center Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 4th round pick in the 2013 Draft. The team now has 50 players under contract, so any other trades before Wednesday's deadline will mean moving players or prospects.
 

GAME NOTES

- Blackhawks hit 60% in the faceoff circle tonight. Jonathan Toews was 77% (17 out of 22) and Dave Bolland hit 75% (6 of 8).
- Jonathan Toews had 7 takeaways. The entire Nashville roster had 8.
- In a powerhouse night for Toews, he logged 24:12 (only Duncan Keith had more, 25:51), an assist, 3 SOG (plus 3 AB/MS), plus the 7 takeaways & 77% FOW.
- Nashville logged 46 hits during the game. The only players not to log hits were Sergei Kostitsyn and Pekka Rinne.
- Patrick Kane led the Blackhawks in shots (6) followed by Bryan Bickell (5). The only Chicago skater without a shot on goal was Marcus Kruger.

* * *

GAME RECAP

Final score: Blackhawks 3, Nashville 2

CHI goals: Saad, Kane
NSH goals: Legwand, Beck

Three stars:
1) Patrick Kane (CHI)
2) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3) Brandon Saad (CHI)

Winning goalie: Corey Crawford (2 GAA/.926 sv%)
Losing goalie: Pekka Rinne (2 GAA/.950 sv%)

Next game: Thursday April 4 vs. St Louis Blues, 7:30pm CDT, on CSN-CHI (Jonathan Toews bobblehead night)

Follow our Blackhawks writers at @TCLBlackhawks; you can follow me at @HockeyBroad