Big game against the Blackhawks? No problem.
Juuse Saros stopped all 41 shots he faced, and the Nashville Predators shut out Chicago by a 3-0 final on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. The result gives the Preds 41 points in the standings - two ahead of the Hawks - to keep them in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division with 17 games remaining in the regular season.
Just as they did twice last weekend in Chicago, Nashville once again prevailed against a team they began the day deadlocked in the standings with. Thanks to goals from Eeli Tolvanen, Colton Sissons and Luke Kunin - plus a perfect outing from their netminder - the Preds had their 20th win of the season before sundown.
Video: Sissons, Tolvanen and Saros discuss Preds' 3-0 win
"We knew it was going to be a big game for us," Tolvanen said. "It was a good bounce-back after [Thursday's loss to Dallas], but I think we had a kind of slow start. We got the power-play goal, but we didn't play that well in the first period. The start of the second, it was kind of the same thing, but then later on in the second, we found our game. Then, the third period we just kept rolling and we got those goals. It's a huge win, and I think it's good for the team too."
Video: Coach Hynes praises goaltending, special teams in win
"We understand how important these games are, especially with these games that are head-to-head to teams that are right neck-and-neck with us," Sissons said. "So, we've been able to rise to the occasion and not kind of succumb to that pressure and make mistakes all night long. We're pretty comfortable right now, and we've built some confidence over the last few weeks here."
Roughly five minutes into the game, Tolvanen did what he often does on the power play. Calle Jarnkrok found the rookie, who walked in and blasted a shot from the top of the left circle to beat Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen for his 10th tally of the season - and sixth with the man-advantage - to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.
Video: CHI@NSH: Tolvanen rockets slap shot home for PPG
In the second stanza, while shorthanded, Sissons was awarded a penalty shot after being impeded on a breakaway, and on the ensuing chance, the centerman snapped the puck into the twine to give Nashville a two-goal advantage through 40 minutes.
Video: CHI@NSH: Sissons scores shorthanded penalty shot
After Nashville's penalty kill went to work in the third to successfully negate 1:55 of a 5-on-3 opportunity for Chicago, Kunin delivered the dagger midway through the frame, and Saros finished it off for his second shutout of the season.
Video: CHI@NSH: Kunin scores in 3rd period
"We really wanted to get our game going again and not think about one loss," Saros said. "We were really successful on that and bounced back. I think It was a really complete game from everybody, and obviously the penalty kill was really huge and guys made some big blocks there."
Video: CHI@NSH: Saros makes 41 saves, earns 13th NHL shutout
Preds Head Coach John Hynes listed three elements on Saturday - goaltending, special teams and grit - that led Nashville to their fifth win in five tries over the Blackhawks this season.
"It's a rivalry game, and I think there's a lot of history between Nashville and Chicago, which is always exciting," Hynes said. "You can tell that the team gets jacked up to play them, whether it's here or Chicago is a great building to play in as well, and I think that's a big part of it. Right now, if you focus on the now, certainly the standings and the playoff race, they're a team we're directly competing with, so I think that brings out some of the best in us also."
That effort was tested once again, as it has been so many times this season, by injuries. Not only did the Preds lose defenseman Alexandre Carrier for three-to-five weeks with a lower-body injury, forward Viktor Arvidsson left Saturday's game in the second period with "upper-body discomfort" and did not return.
But just as they have over the past month-plus, no matter who is in or out, the Predators found a way once more.
"Extremely proud," Sissons said of his team's effort with players out due to injury. "It hasn't been easy on us. The schedule is one thing, but with the added injuries to some very key players on our hockey team, there's some guys stepping up all the time, it seems. It's been awesome and has been really fun to be a part of, and hopefully we can keep that thing rolling."
The Preds will try to do just that with a pair of outings in Detroit this week against the Red Wings, but for now, they'll take a much needed rest and reprieve before getting back to pursuing their goals.
"We found a way to win a game where we didn't have a ton in the emotional bank account, where we didn't have as much physically as we needed, but I think we had some toughness to be able to find a way to win tonight," Hynes said. "Piggyback that with really strong goaltending and finding special teams [success], and I think it's a great opportunity for us right now to get a reset. Guys have this evening, you have Sunday, we won't skate Monday where we can get some physical and mental reset, and emotionally, and get back ready for Detroit."
Video: Saros makes 41 saves, Predators blank Blackhawks, 3-0
Tolvanen's six power-play goals lead all NHL rookies - the next closest has two - and he's now tied for third in rookie scoring with 19 points (10g-9a). Tolvanen recorded a career-high six-game point streak (3g-6a) from March 21-30; he also now has 14 points (7g-7a) in his last 15 games.
With an assist on Tolvanen's goal, Preds Captain Roman Josi became the highest-scoring Swiss-born player in NHL history with 435 career points (113g-322a) by passing Mark Streit.
Colton Sissons scored on Nashville's 34th penalty shot in franchise history (including postseason). It's the sixth shorthanded penalty-shot goal in franchise history and the 13th penalty-shot goal in club history (including playoffs, 1g).
Juuse Saros turned aside all 41 shots he faced to record the 13th shutout of his NHL career and eclipse Chris Mason for the third most in Preds history.
Prior to today's game, the Preds announced defenseman Alexandre Carrier is out 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki has been placed on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury (week-to-week).
After a well-earned break, the Predators will head to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Tuesday and Thursday of this week at Little Caesars Arena (both games at 6:30 p.m. CT).