The Blackhawks picked up their seventh straight win and closed out a back-to-back with a 5-3 victory in Nashville on Saturday night. That puts the streaking Hawks back in first place in the Central Division over the Wild by one point — though Minnesota still has three games in hand.
Jonathan Toews picked up a goal and an assist, Viktor Arvidsson toyed with the Hawks defense and Chicago avoided a consecutive night of overtime with a last-minute response.
Here’s how it happened.
Nashville tried to play on Chicago’s back-to-back fatigue early. The Predators got off to a blazing start that saw them go up 11-3 in shots as the Hawks tried to find their footing. Even a fight from Jordon Tootoo at center ice against Cody McLeod didn’t yield much momentum. Only when Tootoo drew a high sticking call with just under five minutes left in the period did Chicago regroup. On the ensuing power play, Patrick Kane walked the puck towards the left face-off dot and fired a laser past Predators goalie Juuse Saros to go up 1-0. Jonathan Toews provided a screen in front of the net on the shot.
The Hawks finished the period down 17-11 shots, but were starting to wake up.
Things ramped up right away in the middle frame with Toews missing on a partial breakaway shortly after puck drop. Kane followed up a few minutes later with a toe drag around a defender to set up a one-timer for Artem Anisimov that was foiled when the center had his stick lifted. But the early pressure paid off as Tootoo notched his first goal of the season after a scramble in front of the crease for a 2-0 lead.
That kicked off a stretch of the Hawks and Preds trading goals until the end of the frame. Viktor Arvidsson picked off a pass from Brent Seabrook at the Chicago blue line and rushed in on Corey Crawford for a goal. A few minutes later, after Toews drew a tripping penalty, the Captain scored his 17th goal of the year by burying a rebound in the crease. And only 14 seconds after that, Calle Jarnkrok got an angle on Crawford and sniped one past him.
The Hawks escaped the second with a 3-2 lead and had closed the SOG gap to 25-22.
Arvidsson finally closed the gap early in the third period with a goal from just below the right face off dot that snuck its way over Crawford’s left shoulder. That kept the game even for the majority of the frame until the Hawks finally roared back with only a few minutes remaining. Panarin and Kane created a few opportunities in the offensive zone, but it was Toews’ line who finally broke the tie. The center found Brian Campbell cutting to the net and fed him a pass from the half boards to the slot where the defenseman buried the go-ahead goal with just over one minute remaining. Kane picked up his second goal on the night shortly after when Panarin fed him for an empty-net goal to go up 5-3.
SCH 3 stars
1. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (2 goals)
3. Viktor Arvidsson, Predators (2 goals)