The Chicago Blackhawks snapped the Nashville Predators seven-game winning streak at home with a 3-1 triumph on Saturday night.
The Predators cut the Hawks lead to 2-1 early in the third period, but couldn’t find the equalizer over the remaining 19 minutes of regulation. Chicago winger Marian Hossa scored twice, including the game-winner, to give the Blackhawks possession of first place in the Central Division.
Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette described the contest as incredibly equal, but one that went the visitor’s way in the end.
“You’re going to look at tonight’s game and break down the stats,” Laviolette said. “The shots are the same, the chances are the same and the shots at the net are the same. They got one more than we did. We move forward from here and get ready for the next one.”
The loss at Bridgestone Arena was the Predators first in 42 days and dropped the team’s record in their own barn to 11-2-1. Forward Colin Wilson scored for the second-consecutive game 34 ticks into final frame, but the Hawks No. 1 ranked defense prevented any other goals from Nashville.
“I think we showed our game in the third,” Wilson said. “But earlier than that, we weren’t playing it. We weren’t skating hard and battling the way we can. I think our confidence was a little bit low tonight for whatever reason, but as soon as we started getting that puck moving and getting chances, we started to play our game.”
The Predators now head out on a three-game road trip with visits to Colorado, Arizona and San Jose.
Darling Faces Former Employer:
Saturday’s winning netminder, Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling skated in 26 games for the Milwaukee Admirals last season, the Predators American Hockey League affiliate. The goaltender held a 13-6-2 record with the Admirals while posting the AHL’s second-highest shutout total (6) in 2013-14.
“He’s playing at the highest level for a reason; he’s a good goalie,” Preds winger Taylor Beck said of his former Admirals teammate. “I think we tested him a fair amount, but he did a good job of stopping the puck. He’s a great goalie.”
Making his fourth start of the season for the Hawks, Darling stopped 32 of 33 Nashville shots en-route to his third win of the year. Mike Fisher said Nashville didn’t register the amount of chances that the club would have liked to on the young netminder.
“I don’t know that we got enough second opportunities on him,” said Fisher. “I felt like he was seeing the puck too well. We really could have used some more traffic in front of him, but they boxed out pretty good. We needed to do a better job of getting in the interior.”
Nashville’s head coach also said he would have liked more quality opportunities on the Chicago cage.
“Probably not as many [chances] as we would like,” Laviolette said. “I think the way they play defense has something to do with that. They are one of the top defensive teams in the League. They don’t give up much. But no, I would have liked more.”
Fisher’s Involvement Ramped Up:
Playing in his fifth contest of the campaign, Mike Fisher logged nearly 20 minutes of ice time and notched an assist for the second-straight game. After an Achilles injury kept him out of the lineup the first two months of the season, the forward saw his involvement dramatically increased on Saturday.
“I thought he was really good; he might have been our most noticeable guy up front,” Laviolette said. “I think it’s part of the process of just getting him back. You’ve got a guy that’s been out four or five months with an injury. He misses training camp and is not up to game speed of the games we’ve been playing.
"It’s difficult just to come in and play 20 minutes against all situations against the top players. As his entry back into the lineup has progressed, he’s looked stronger and better. It was a good opportunity to try and shake up the lines and get a goal.”
Fisher touched every Nashville line at different points in the contest, skating alongside all four Predators forward units before settling in between Wilson and Craig Smith on the second trio. The 34-year-old agreed with Laviolette that the contest against Chicago was his best to date, but admitted the loss made it difficult to be pleased with the overall effort.
“It feels good to be back and getting more involved,” Fisher said. “We wanted a better outcome of course, but we came up short. We got behind the eight-ball against a good team and we couldn’t find our way back. We still battled hard in the end and had some good chances, but couldn’t find that second one.”
Beck said seeing the top-four scorer for Nashville the last three seasons getting more involved is a good sign for the club.
“He’s the hardest worker every game,” Beck said. “He battles offensively and he’s great defensively too. He was really good throughout the game.”
Tonight marked the Predators first outing decided by more than one goal since their 9-2 win over Toronto on Nov. 18, a stretch of seven games. Mike Ribeiro saw his three-game goal streak come to an end, while Roman Josi’s four-game assist streak was also halted.