Photo by John Russell
David Legwand poses in the Predators locker room with his three hat trick pucks as well as the hats that fans tossed onto the ice in his honor.
David Legwand scored his first career hat trick as the Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 Saturday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Twice Nashville gave up leads before pulling away with three third-period goals.
With the win, the Predators head into the All Star break as the No. 1 team in the NHL. Their record now stands at 34-12-3 and 18-3-3 on home ice.
With the score tied 2-2, Legwand tucked in a rebound to put Nashville ahead with the second period's only tally. Earlier, the teams had combined for four first-period goals in a 2:32 span, with Nashville taking a 2-0 lead only to see it erased minutes later.
Martin Erat struck first, after Paul Kariya and Legwand failed to connect on a scoring chance. Kariya fed Legwand for a shot from the left side that was blocked by a Blackhawks defender. Legwand quickly fed the puck back through the crease and Erat put it into the open net at 7:14.
The Predators made it 2-0 just 20 seconds later. Greg Zanon's left point shot was stopped and rebounded into the slot. Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont both missed the puck as it faded higher into the slot. Jason Arnott fired it on goal and Dumont was able to put the rebound past goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin at 7:34.
At 8:23, Nashville's Jordin Tootoo took a hooking penalty that set the stage for a power-play goal from Martin Havlat at 9:37. Havlat lifted Bryan Smolinski's cross-crease feed high over Preds goaltender Chris Mason to cut it to 2-1. The puck was dumped into Nashville's end just after the ensuing face-off and Mason inadvertently passed it to Blackhawks center Craig MacDonald above the right circle. Mason was far from his net when MacDonald got possession, making it easy for the Chicago forward to fire the puck past the helpless Nashville netminder.
The game started with some fireworks, as Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky and Smolinski fought just 30 seconds into the match.
On Nashville's second-period go-ahead goal, defenseman Kimmo Timonen made a hard and lengthy outlet pass to Legwand up on left wing. From above the left circle, Legwand sent a pass to Erat in the right circle. Khabibulin got a piece of Erat's backhand chance and the puck dribbled wide of the left post. Legwand swooped in, pulled the puck back from beyond the goal line and deposited it into the net to make it 3-2 at 15:08.
The Predators came oh-so-close to making it 4-2 in the waning seconds of the middle period, when Dumont, Arnott, Kariya and Sullivan all had unbelievable chances during a scramble. Khabibulin was down on the ice and the puck was pinballing back and forth among Predators' sticks but never found its way across the goal line.
Instead, Chicago again tied the score when Havlat set up Duncan Keith 1:39 into the third. Nashville had a prime opportunity to take the lead again early in the third with 1:23 of a 5-on-3 power play, but couldn't convert.
Seven seconds after a cross-checking penalty to Jim Vandermeer expired, Legwand recaptured a one-goal cushion with his second of the night. Erat pushed the offensive rush out of Nashville's zone and centered for a tip-on by Dumont. Khabibulin coughed up a rebound that Legwand opportunistically fired into the net as he followed up on the play.
Timonen added a power-play tally with 1:59 remaining in regulation then Legwand tagged on an empty net goal with 37.3 left to seal the win. With his third goal, Legwand became the Predators all-time leading goal-scored with 97 career goals.
NOTES: The Predators head into the NHL All-Star break with the most points in the NHL. Following Saturday's 6-3 win over Chicago, the Predators are now 34-12-3 for 71 points. The Predators have gone 16-4-0 in the last 20 games... In addition to having the most points, Nashville has the most wins in NHL (34) and is tied for the fewest regulation losses (12). The Predators are the top-scoring team in the Western Conference (173 goals). They have the most home points in the NHL (18-3-3 for 39 points) and the third most road points (16-9-0 for 32 points). They are seventh in penalty killing (85%) and seventh in goals against (125)... David Legwand became the franchise's all-time goal-scoring leader when he completed his first career hat trick on Saturday night. The third goal was his 97th career goal, giving him one more than previous record holder Scott Walker. Legwand is now third in the NHL in plus/minus at +26. He has tied Scott Hartnell for the team goal-scoring lead this season with 18 (also tying his career best) and he has 24 assists for 42 points in 46 games. He has five goals and four assists in his last four games, including three game winning goals... Chris Mason is now 20-8-2 for the season and has won more games this season than he had won in his NHL career prior to the season (he had 16 wins entering this season)... Martin Erat now has 3 goals, 6 assists and nine points in his last seven games and has 10 goals, 31 assists for 41 points for the season. His is within two assists of his career high (33) and within eight points of his career high (49)... Paul Kariya, who leads the team with 53 points, has 10 goals, 17 assists and 27 points in his last 20 games... Steve Sullivan, second on team in scoring with 46 points, has points in five straight games (1-4=5)... J.P. Dumont now has 2 goals, 9 assists and 11 points in his last 10 games... Jason Arnott and Scott Hartnell are tied for team lead with nine power-play goals each... Arnott and Legwand are tied for team lead with five game-winning goals each... Kimmo Timonen now has 16 points (3g-13a) in his last 17 games... Predators are 17-6 in one-goal games, 25-5-1 when scoring the first goal of the game, and 23-1-3 when leading after two periods... Nashville outshot Chicago 35-30 and is 12-2-0 when outshooting the opposition and 21-10-2 when outshot... The Predators are 15-4-1 vs. the Central Division... Nashville has now scored at least one first-period goal in 12 straight games, outscoring opponents 22-9 in last 12 first periods. For the season, the Predators have outscored opponents 62-38 in the first period... The Preds have now scored at least one second-period goal in the last 11 games, scoring a total of 16 goals in those 11 games. For the season, the Predators have outscored opponents 69-35 in the second period.