The United Center in Chicago hadn’t been kind to the Nashville Predators. When they entered the building on Feb. 25 of last season, they did so having lost seven consecutive games in the Windy City – including three in the 2015 postseason – a stretch dating back almost two calendar years.
But when the Preds faced off against the Blackhawks on that cold Thursday night, they had something going for them. The game in Chicago signified the end of a three-game road trip that had seen the Preds first defeat the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout – where Craig Smith played the role of hero – before claiming two more points in Toronto, courtesy of a hat trick from Filip Forsberg.
Preds forward Calle Jarnkrok and his mates made sure the Preds would come home a perfect three-for-three when he sniped a shot into the twine with 1:51 remaining in regulation, breaking a 1-1 draw before Miikka Salomaki iced it with an empty netter.
The win extended Nashville’s franchise record for consecutive road games earning at least a point in 10 while providing the club with their 30th win of the season.
“Anytime you beat Chicago, it’s a good win,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said after the contest. “They’re a good hockey team. Year after year, they’re pressing in the playoffs, they’re pressing for their division, so it’s never an easy thing coming in here and our guys played really hard tonight. We seemed to get better as the game went on, our third was our smartest period and our best period, just defensively and methodically, just taking care of the minutes and eventually, we were able to chip one in. It was a huge goal at the end.”
The Preds also got a second-period goal from Viktor Arvidsson just four minutes after Brent Seabrook opened the scoring for Chicago. Goaltender Pekka Rinne made 38 saves overall, including 13 in the first period alone.
“Huge goal; really nice shot too,” defenseman Roman Josi said of Jarnkrok’s marker. “And Pekka was our best player tonight. He played unreal, especially in the first. He made a lot of great saves and we definitely needed him tonight.”
Check back next weekend for Game No. 2 in our countdown!
Mike Fisher drops a pass to Calle Jarnkrok at the left circle, and the Swede snaps a shot past Corey Crawford with less than two minutes left in regulation for the game-winning tally.
Another night, another two points on the road. At least that’s the way things have gone of late for the Preds, who extended their streak to 10 games with at least one point in an opponent’s building. On this occasion in Chicago, Nashville stuck with their game plan, and it worked.
“We knew how dangerous they are on the attack, so our plan was to play well defensively,” Roman Josi said. “We knew we were going to get our chances if we played defensively.”
The Preds not only got those chances, but capitalized when it mattered most, as Calle Jarnkrok scored the winner late in the third, improving the club’s road record and adding yet another boost of confidence to a Nashville team that is 8-0-2 in their last 10 away from home.
“I think we’re getting some confidence all the time,” Pekka Rinne said. “We’ve been playing good hockey and just getting points. Tonight, I thought just the way we stuck with it and played a really strong third period; sometimes we’ve had slow starts, but the third periods have been strong for us and that’s a good sign.”
“It was a great road trip,” Josi said. “Three wins and we’ve been playing well on the road for a while now and had a lot of good road games. Coming back home now, and we want to play the same way at home.”
Gif of the Game:
In quite possibly his best game of the regular season, Pekka Rinne makes one of his 38 saves off a Jonathan Toews’s shot from a 2-on-1 chance.
Pekka Rinne on getting a win in Chicago:
“I was fortunate to have a couple big saves in the early going and after that, you feel good about yourself and feel good about your game. It was a strong game by all of us, and it was obviously a big win against the division rival.