Paul Kariya scored twice in the third period to single-handedly overcome a 1-0 deficit and give the Nashville Predators a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night at the United Center. Goaltender Chris Mason stopped 27 of 28 shots as Nashville defeated the Blackhawks for the first time in four meetings this season.
For the second game in a row, the Predators power play came up empty for much of the contest but connected when the chips were down. Kariya's power-play goal, which came at 12:58 of the third on Nashville's fifth attempt with the man advantage, proved to be the game winner. Nashville's record improves to 23-8-3 for the season.
With Nashville trailing 1-0 early in the third period, Kariya capitalized on a quick transition play to even the game. Chicago's five players got trapped too deep in Nashville's zone while attacking, allowing David Legwand to turn a loose puck up ice to Kariya who had a breakaway from the far blue line. He put a shot high over the shoulder of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to tie the game at 6:41.
Just over six minutes later, with Hawks defenseman Jassen Cullimore in the penalty box for hooking David Legwand, Kariya struck again. He walked off the boards and utilized good screens by Scott Hartnell and Martin Erat to beat Khabibulin with a wrist shot at 12:58. The power-play tally made it 2-1.
Mason was very solid down the stretch, stopped all 25 shots he faced over the final two periods. His best stops came during flurries at the beginning and end of the third. Already on the power play, Chicago pulled Khabibulin with 1:16 remaining in regulation to mount a strong 6-on-4 attack that Mason and the Predators penalty killers thwarted to secure the win--Nashville's fifth in a row.
Martin Havlat scored 14:24 into the game to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead that stood through two periods. Havlat capitalized on a giveaway by the Predators near their own blue line. The talented goal scorer, who already had six points against Nashville this season, walked in one-on-one and moved past defenseman Greg Zanon to snap the puck up and over the stick shoulder of Mason.
Chicago outshot Nashville 4-3 over the course of the opening 20 minutes, with the Predators hitting the post in the early going. Kariya, who extended his point streak to five games, twice came close to setting up Hartnell for a goal in the first, and Hartnell put another chance wide after gathering the rebound of a Josef Vasicek attempt.
Shots picked up in the second period, with Chicago posting 10 in the first eight and a half minutes. Mason held the fort and prevented the Blackhawks from adding to their margin, but his counterpart at the other end, Khabibulin, seemed impenetrable based on his play through 40 minutes. In the second period, Khabibulin stopped Jason Arnott on the doorstep near the 16:00 mark then turned aside a good chance by Scott Nichol around 17:30.
Nashville scored twice on eight shots in the final period to give Mason all the offensive support he would need. Mason was named the game's third star for his efforts, while Kariya took first star honors. The Predators take a postgame flight back to Nashville where they will host the Eastern Conference's top-ranked Buffalo Sabres in a 7:00 p.m. CT contest Thursday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. For tickets, order online, call 615-770-PUCK or visit any Ticketmaster outlet.
NOTES: Defenseman Kimmo Timonen posted assists on both Nashville goals. His assist on Paul Kariya's power-play goal gives him a team-high 13 power-play points (6g-7a)... With his two goals, Paul Kariya claimed sole ownership of the team scoring lead with 34 points (9g-25a). He also extended his point streak to five games. Kariya has 8 points (3g-5a) over the span. After scoring just six goals over the first 31 games of the season, he now has three goals and a game-deciding shootout marker in his past three games. His power-play tally was his second of the season--both have come in the past three games... Nashville is now 8-3-1 against opponents from its own division... The Predators are now 14-6 in one-goal games... Martin Erat assisted on Kariya's second goal and now has 8 assists in the last 7 games... David Legwand assisted on Kariya's first goal... Goaltender Chris Mason has made 13 straight starts and is 9-3-1 in those games. He has allowed a total of four goals over the past four games.