|Photo by John Russell
Predators rookie winger Alexander Radulov
leaps to avoid a shot by captain Kimmo Timonen, who collected his 300th NHL point in the game.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night at Nashville Arena. All three Chicago shooters tallied in the tie-breaking session, while Paul Kariya--who posted two assists in regulation--scored the lone shootout goal for Nashville.
With the loss, the Predators' record moves to 49-23-8 and the team gains one point in the league standings. Nashville now stands at 106 points, even with the Western Conference's second-place Anaheim Ducks and four points behind the league-leading Detroit Red Wings, who shut out Columbus 3-0 Tuesday.
The Preds and Hawks ended regulation tied 2-2. After playing a scoreless first, the two clubs each scored in the second and again in the third. Nashville held a 2-1 lead but Chicago got the tying goal with under 10 minutes to play in regulation. Despite a power play in the final three minutes of the third and another in the five-minute overtime, the home team could not capitalize to seal the game. Instead, a shootout was needed to decide a victor.
The Predators elected to allow Blackhawks to shoot first, and Jason Williams led things off. He skated in on Mason and made a swooping deke to his left, where he roofed the puck over an extended Mason with his backhand. Alexander Radulov was Nashville first shooter but fired his backhander--a mirror image of Williams' chance--into the glove of goaltender Patrick Lalime. Radim Vrbata then used a carbon copy of Williams' move to beat Mason and make it 2-0 in favor of the visitors. Kariya was next for Nashville and pinpointed a shot in the top right corner to pull the Predators within one. Still, Chicago could close out the win with one more goal and Jeff Hamilton, as the next shooter, provided it. He started his approach very wide from the left side, cut across the front of the net and faked a shot that forced Mason to commit. Hamilton held the puck an extra stride and easily lifted it over Mason to ice the shootout win.
Nashville broke a 1-1 tie 5:04 into the third period when Dan Hamhuis fired a point shot past Lalime and into the far side of the net. Kariya initiated the play with a perfectly weighted bank pass out of his own zone that allowed teammate J.P. Dumont to run onto the puck in the neutral zone. Dumont carried it over the far blue line and pulled up in the left corner, sending the puck back to Hamhuis at the left point. Hamhuis released a one-timer that found the back of the net for his sixth tally of the season.
Chicago evened it up at 10:56 of Period 3. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien walked down from the blue line, stepped around Hamhuis and released a rising shot that beat Mason to make it 2-2.
Earlier, Hamhuis fanned on a clearing attempt in front of his own net early in the second and Blackhawks forward Michael Holmqvist capitalized on the turnover, wristing a shot past the glove hand of Mason at 2:26. Predators captain Kimmo Timonen got the equalizer just over five minutes later after making a nice play at the blue line to hold the puck inside the offensive zone. Kariya and David Legwand then briefly cycled the puck along the right wall. Kariya carried the play higher in the zone before threading a pass to Timonen, who had slipped all the way down to the left side of the Chicago net. Timonen simply redirected the puck behind goalie Patrick Lalime to make it 1-1. The goal was Timonen's 300th point of his NHL career.
In a relatively quiet first period, Jason Arnott and Peter Forsberg each hit the post with chances as the Predators were ultimately unable to capitalize on two power plays--including 52 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage that came 11:57 into the game. At the other end, Mason turned aside all eight shots he faced over the opening 20 minutes, including back-to-back saves on Brent Seabrook and Rene Bourque in the first minute of play. Around the 13:00 mark, Mason made a key stop on skilled winger Martin Havlat's partial breakaway after Havlat tried to convert a takeaway from Ryan Suter. Havlat left the game after getting tangled with Marek Zidlicky 14:52 into the first and did not return. Holmqvist also left the game, departing after taking the brunt of a Shea Weber hit midway through the second period.
NOTES: Forward Scott Nichol returned to the lineup for the first time since missing 11 games with a broken thumb. He was even in 10:21 of ice time... Kimmo Timonen recorded his 300th career NHL point. He has 79 goals and 221 assists in 571 games--all with Nashville... Paul Kariya posted two assists for his 50th and 51st helpers of the season. It's the sixth time in his career that he has hit the 50-assist mark. He now has 499 in his career... David Legwand recorded an assist and became the fourth Predator to reach 60 points this season... Nashville gained one point in the standings to tie last season's franchise-record point total of 106... Dan Hamhuis scored his first goal since February 10... Jerred Smithson was a perfect 8-for-8 in the face-off circle and the Predators won 39 and lost 15 draws overall (72%)... Linemates Peter Forsberg and Alexander Radulov led all skaters with five shots each... Vitaly Vishnevski, Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan were scratched for Nashville.
Predators Coach Barry Trotz
On not converting on key power-play opportunties
When you do get a power play late in the game or in overtime you really want to convert. It's not like we didn't get any chances, but you want to convert and we didn't. It was sort of a game of missed opportunities tonight. I didn't think that we came out real good. We gave up a few chances but really you know I think we hit 5 posts, I mean it's just missed opportunities. They don't count chances, they just count the goals and you know once you get in a shootout anything can happen. So you know there's some things in our game we did well and other things in our game we didn't do well. Obviously finishing, we weren't able to finish too many times today.
On whether getting close chances is encouraging or frustrating
I think it gets frustrating. It's encouraging your getting chances, yes, but it becomes frustrating when you don't convert on those chances and that's probably where we are a little bit. Looking at the game sheet...you know we put almost 70 shots towards the net either blocked or missed...so we are trying to create some offense off of that, but nothing's going in right now.
Nashville Goaltender Chris Mason
General game impressions
"Yeah, it was a tough one. I don't think we had our best game. It's over now. We had a few chances to hit a post a few times tonight, but I still think as a team we didn't have the kind of game we wanted to have. So we gotta do a gut check and get our heads in it for the last two games. That's all we can do right now."
On the topic of trying to gain momentum with the last three games
"It just makes us start over. We didn't gain anything tonight. We play Thursday, so we just gotta start there."
Nashville Defenseman Dan Hamhuis
On the last few games
"Really we just gotta keep it simpler out there. I think we might be trying to make too fancy of plays and we gotta get back and move the puck faster in our end and in their end. Just play a simpler game, put pucks at the net and make sure we get it past their D."
On the topic of playing another team with nothing to lose on Thursday
"Yeah it's a game we have to be prepared for, to play our game. We can't play at the level these guys are at. We have another level in here, and we haven't been bringing it lately, and we've got to find that on Thursday. "
On the topic of the difficulty in playing at a higher level
"I don't know - it could be a number of different things. There's a lot of different line combinations, a lot of injuries, but you don't want to make that as an excuse. We still gotta be better. We got a great team no matter who's sitting out. The guys that are in the lineup every night are good enough to win games, but we're not coming out with wins right now."
Chicago Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien
General Game Impressions
"Just a few games left, you gotta go out there and battle every night. And everyone's working for a position next year and gotta keep working hard."
Scoring against Nashville
"Yeah, half my goals in the NHL have been against these guys."
To get a win against a playoff bound team
"Oh yeah it's a great thing. They are a fast team, they are a really good team and it's always nice to come out and beat a team like that."
Chicago Goalie Patrick Lalime
To get a win against a playoff bound team
"We are playing for different reasons than those guys. I think we played a solid game all around - every single guy in this room. I think right from the get go I think we came out pretty solid and we never let down. We were down 2-1 and came back, big character win."
Kariya's shootout goal
"I knew he was going to shoot it, just didn't know where. He can pick the corners, it was a good shot."
Chicago Head Coach Denis Savard
"It popped out on him and they put it back in we will see the doctors tomorrow when we get home."
"Tough thing for our team to lose him here. He's playing really well and unfortunately injuries are part of the game."
"Probably the greatest, most gutsy performance from our team this year. It's good to see and I am proud of them...our guys never quit they kept battling and kept working."
"Things are going to turn around here pretty soon."