Blackhawks clinch playoff berth with 5-3 win over Predators

Chicago had shut out Nashville on home ice on Saturday; the Predators came to the United Center on Sunday hoping to return the favor.

The Blackhawks took Sunday's game 5-3 in regulation, and in doing so, also clinched the first berth in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. They continue to lead the league with 62 points.

Sunday's match was a low-penalty game; both teams are well aware of the other's ability to seize on mistakes and make opponents pay. The Predators took a too-many-men penalty in the first with a bad line change; and Andrew Shaw collected an unsportsmanlike conduct in the second.

The story of the night was the strong play of Chicago's fourth line, particularly in the first period. Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, and Michael Frolik collected 8 of the team's 40 SOG between them (plus 1 missed and 2 blocked shots). They also had the first goal of the night, by Andrew Shaw, 6:34 into the first. Nick Spaling tied up the game for the Predators with 2:44 left in the first.

In the second, the teams would again trade goals, both early in the period: first, a wicked wrister by Chicago's Bryan Bickell; followed by Shea Weber's goal right off the faceoff circle.

David Legwand gave the Predators their first lead of the game 6:54 into the third, but it was short-lived. Rookie Brandon Saad put in the tying goal under three minutes later, his 9th of the season; and Jonathan Toews scored the go-ahead goal just 55 seconds after him.

After Pekka Rinne was pulled at the end of the third, Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane had a 2-on-1. Saad, seeing that Kane had the better shot for the ENG, made the pass, and Kane buried it to make it 5-3.

While the Blackhawks punched their ticket to the playoffs, the Predators are struggling to get back into the top 8 in the West. They currently have 38 points, and the loss dropped them to 13th, with no games in hand over the other teams in front of them.

Chicago improves to 13-0-1 against Central division rivals, and hold a 18-point lead over St. Louis, the second-best team in the Central. The Blues have 11 games left, so the Blackhawks will not have clinched their division until St. Louis has been mathematically eliminated from the possibility of doing so.

The Blackhawks will travel to Minnesota tomorrow for their game vs. the Wild on Tuesday night. The Wild currently sit at 6th in the West, battling out for lead of the Northwest division with the Canucks.

GAME RECAP

Final score: Blackhawks 5, Predators 3

CHI goals: Shaw, Bickell, Saad, Toews, Kane
NSH goals: Spaling, Weber, Legwand

Three stars:
1) Jonathan Toews - CHI
2) Brandon Saad - CHI
3) Andrew Shaw - CHI

Winning goalie: Ray Emery, 3 GA / .864 sv%
Losing goalie: Pekka Rinne, 4 GA / .897 sv%

Next game: Tuesday April 9 at the Minnesota Wild, 7:00pm CDT

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