The Chicago Blackhawks
were so good Thursday night they left their coach speechless.
Well, not quite -- but Joel Quenneville's voice was soft and raspy in his return to the bench after missing four games with a bleeding ulcer.
"You can tell I've been away. I can't talk any more," Quenneville said after the Hawks won their third in a row by blanking the Nashville Predators 3-0 before a disappointed sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.
Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa scored, and goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots as the Hawks won for the fourth time in five games.
"It's all up to us what we do with it," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Tonight I thought was a great team effort. That's what it's going to take."
Quenneville was glad to be back.
"I felt great throughout the whole game. I could see coming after the second into the third my voice all of a sudden it seems like it's that first day of training camp or the first game back in the regular season. It's been idle for a while. You have to raise it a couple decibels. We'll get it back," he said.
The Predators are trying to find their offense. They outshot Chicago 31-25 but were shut out for a second straight game and have dropped three straight and four of five.
"We had some chances, but we couldn't find them," coach Barry Trotz said. "There were some loose pucks every period that we couldn't get a handle on."
Crawford posted his third shutout this season. Patrick Sharp had an empty-netter with 31 seconds left to go along with an assist as the Hawks won the season series 3-1-2.
The outcome left Nashville and Chicago among six teams tied with 70 points and fighting for position in the Western Conference.
"I don't think we're ever in a place where we should feel comfortable," Quenneville said. "You look at the standings, and the next opponent is right in that wheelhouse. Six teams at 70 points is pretty amazing."
Nashville isn't happy having wasted its lead over the pack.
"There's no more excuses," captain Shea Weber said. "There's no reason why we should make mistakes. If we make them, we've got to make up for them and do better from it."
The Predators came out strong after losing 4-0 at Columbus on Tuesday by giving up four goals in the third period. They took the first five shots of the game and spent much of the first period testing Crawford.
But it was the Hawks who scored first. Kopecky came on as the extra attacker during a delayed penalty, and Sharp passed to him as Kopecky reached the right circle where he snapped a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne at 17:12 for his 11th goal this season.
Hossa made it 2-0 at 2:35 of the third with his 14th this season. He broke up a pass, went in on a breakaway and fired a wrister under Rinne's right arm.
"Obviously, the breakaway by Hossa was a tough one to swallow," Trotz said.
The Predators thought they had scored with 5:59 left, but officials immediately waved off the goal. David Legwand brushed past Crawford, knocking him off balance before Colin Wilson tapped the puck into the net.
Material from wire services was used in this report