Photo by John Russell
Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun, here making one of his easier saves of the night, posted his second shutout of the season and 14th of his career Saturday.
The Nashville Predators, led by Scott Hartnell's first career hat trick and Tomas Vokoun's second shutout of the season, knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks 6-0 Saturday night in front of a rocking sellout crowd at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The Predators stormed out to a 4-0 lead before the first intermission and relied on several key saves by Vokoun down the stretch to record their second straight victory.
The win improves Nashville's record to 33-15-6 overall and 5-0 against the Blackhawks this season. Hartnell added an assist to his three-goal night and Yanic Perreault posted one goal and three assists as both forwards reached the 20-goal milestone in the game. Greg Johnson and Steve Sullivan also had multi-point performances and six other Predators made an appearance on the scoresheet.
"It was a pretty special feeling, obviously, getting three goals," Hartnell said. His third came with 1:25 remaining in regulation on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Sullivan and Perreault. "I was waiting for Yanic to kind of pass it over and I tried to put it in. Once it was in it was a big relief. Had to wait until the last couple of minutes to get it, but it's just an unbelieveable feeling."
Hartnell confessed that thoughts of a hat trick entered into his head after he had scored a pair of goals in the first period. "Guys would say, 'Don't stop at two. Keep going,' " he said.
But on a night when an offensive performance compelled fans to throw their hats onto the ice and the team's six-goal outburst triggered a "free tacos" promotion for ticket-stub holders, the last line of defense for Nashville was the true story of the game.
"When you see the score, 6-0, I think what will first come to mind is the Predators must have outplayed the Blackhawks pretty badly," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "Not at all. To me the difference was very clear cut. The difference was in goal, and we scored on our chances. Things came to us too easy in the first and it was a hard game to play after that. Tomas was outstanding. He earned that shutout. Unfortunately we didn't give him enough support in terms of doing some of the things that we need to do and manage the game a little bit better when we had the 4-0 lead."
After an opening 20 minutes in which the Predators carried play, outshot the Blackhawks 10-5, and committed no penalties, Nashville seemingly flipped the cruise control switch to start the second period. Chicago responded with a 14-2 shot advantage in the middle frame and a 21-7 margin in the third, forcing Vokoun to make some jaw-dropping stops to keep Chicago off the scoreboard.
"This would have been a great game for us to have locked it down and play real smart and keep our effort real high," Trotz said, "but Tomas had to make 40 saves. The quality of some of those saves, especially in the second, they were within 5, 10 feet of the net."
Vokoun, whose performance resulted in his 27th win and 14th career shutout, was typically modest afterward. "A shutout is always nice, but a win is a win," he said.
Hartnell's praise was a bit more fitting. "[Vokoun] played unbelieveable tonight," he said. "Without him, it's 4-3 going into the third period there. Hats off to Vokie. He played really well. If it wasn't for him it would have been a tight game right down to the end."
Photo by John Russell
Scott Hartnell holds the three pucks from his first career hat trick while surrounded by the hats fans tossed onto the ice in traditional celebration.
Hartnell opened the scoring 8:37 into the first period, after taking a saucer pass from Greg Johnson while cutting in from the left wing. With one deke he moved past Chicago goaltender Adam Munro and backhanded the puck into the right side of the net. Less than a minute and a half later, Perreault made it 2-0 when he redirected a sharp Paul Kariya pass on net. Munro got a piece of Perreault's shot, but not enough to keep it from crossing the goal line at 9:59.
The margin widened to 3-0 at 12:03, as Hartnell whipped a pass from behind the Blackhawk net to Johnson between the circles for a one-timer that caught Munro deep in his net. The goal--scored on the Predators' seventh shot of the night--chased Munro from the game in favor of goalie Craig Anderson, who Chicago acquired Friday on waivers from St. Louis.
The substitution did little to stop the bleeding, as Hartnell tallied his second of the night on the power play at 15:25. The goal foreshadowed his third, as Sullivan and Perreault combined to set him up for a relatively easy conversion at the side of the Hawks' net.
The ice tilted in Chicago's favor in the second period, as Nashville only mustered two shots despite having six minutes of power play time. Vokoun made a spectacular save on Blackhawks forward Radim Vrbata with a little over five minutes gone--tracking the forward as he picked up a rebound in front, moved to Vokoun's right and delayed until he thought he had created enough open net space for himself. Leaning back and to the right, Vokoun extended his catching hand to block the shot with his trapper.
Tyler Arnason tried a similar move on Vokoun at 13:39, carrying the puck around Vokoun to the left and attempting to stuff it inside the left post while standing behind the goal line. Vokoun covered the puck with his catching glove to stop it before it made it into the net.
The Predators responded with more jump in the third, nearly adding another goal around the 1:00 mark on a shot by Kariya and a rebound chance by Perreault. Perreault had a hand in the eventual fifth goal, which came at 4:40. On the rush, Perreault sent a cross-ice pass to Erat in the right circle, and the winger rifled a sharp-angled shot into the top of the net before Anderson could get to that side. At the other end, Vokoun turned in a number of impressive saves down the stretch as Chicago pressured the Nashville net during two third-period power plays. A hooking call to Danny Richmond at 18:19 then set the stage for Hartnell's hat-trick goal.
"It is a little bit of human nature to let the foot off the gas a little bit, there's no question," Trotz said of his team's performance in the final two periods. "But there are certain ways you can do it. One of the ways is not to let the effort come off totally.
"I thought we as a group, we let that effort come down...," he continued. "I thought we didn't really participate in the second period, and it showed in terms of the number of shots and the quality of shots. We responded a little bit better in the third. We scored on some chances and we defended a little bit better. We scored a couple goals and sort of put it out of reach."
Notes: In addition to scoring his first career hat trick Saturday, Scott Hartnell posted the first four-point game of his career; scored two power-play goals (to raise his career-high season total to nine); netted his team-leading seventh game-winning goal (only Colorado's Marek Svatos has more with eight); and surpassed his previous career-high for goals in a season (18) with his 18th, 19th, and 20th goals... Yanic Perreault tied his career-high for assists in a game with three; tied his career-high for points in a game with four; reached the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career; and extended his point streak to four games (2g-5a-7pts in that span)... The Predators have three 20-goal scorers for first time in franchise history (Sullivan-26, Perreault-20, Hartnell-20)... Steve Sullivan registered two power-play assists to raise his total number of power-play points this season to 25 (11g-14a)... Tomas Vokoun, who posted 40 saves Saturday, has made 83 saves in last two games (43 vs. Colorado; 40 vs. Chicago)... Paul Kariya posted an assist on Perreault's goal to extend his assist streak to four games. He has five assists in that span... Martin Erat scored a goal to extend his point streak to four games. He has four points (2g-2a) in that span... Greg Johnson notched a goal and an assist Saturday and now has six of each on the season... Dan Hamhuis, Paul Kariya, Marek Zidlicky, Adam Hall and Kimmo Timonen each also posted an assist in the 6-0 win... Nashville's penalty kill went four-for-four against Chicago and has gone 19-for-19 in its last three games (seven-for-seven at Dallas; eight-for-eight vs. Colorado)... Nashville's power play went two-for-eight vs. Chicago and has gone six-for-31 over the last four games (three-for-nine at Columbus; zero-for-six vs. Dallas; one-for-five vs. Colorado)... The Predators are now 21-5-1 on home ice... Nashville is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games... Predators won 63 percent of their face-offs against Chicago Saturday. Jerred Smithson (11-5), Mike Sillinger (10-4), Yanic Perreault (10-6) were a combined 31-15 on draws... Nashville is 15-2-1 against Central Division opponents, 17-3-3 when leading after one period, and 20-0-3 when leading after two... The Predators were outshot 40-19 Saturday, and are now 19-8-6 when outshot by their opponent... In his first game since being recalled from Milwaukee on Saturday, Jordin Tootoo registered one shot, four hits, one takeaway, one face-off win and a +1 rating in 10:33 of ice time... Jamie Allison and Scott Nichol were scratches for Nashville.
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