The Nashville Predators erased a two-goal, third-period deficit, and Martin Erat scored the game-winning goal 19 seconds into overtime to give the team a 5-4 victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks at the Sommet Center Thursday night. Erat took a feed from linemate Radek Bonk and crashed the opposition’s net to make quick work of the sudden-death session, netting his third goal and sixth point in two games. The victory improved Nashville to 8-1-1 in its past 10 games, and 4-0-1 in a current stretch of eight straight against Central Division opponents.
The Extra session was created by and up and down third period that saw the Predators score three straight goals to take a 4-3 lead at 16:42 of the period, only to give up the game-tying marker with just 42 seconds left to earn both teams a point after 60 minutes. Goaltender Chris Mason provided another solid effort in net for the home team, stopping 26 shots to improve to 4-0-1 in his last five starts.
“Our play slipped during the second period, but we redeemed ourselves in the third and found a way to get two points,” forward Vernon Fiddler said “That is how we’ve been doing it – finding a way to scrap out wins.”
Nashville racked up the zone time in the early goings of the first, but it was the Blackhawks Yanic Perreault who had the first prime chance of the game. The former Pred jumped out of the penalty box at 2:57, and came in all alone down the left side. But, Mason stayed with his every move, and stoned a backhand attempt.
“Obviously you don’t want a chance like that to be your first shot on goal, but it helped that the puck was kind of rolling on end, so I was able to make the stop and get in the game early,” Mason said.
After withstanding a mid-period assault by Hawks, Jason Arnott was at the right place at the right time to capture the first goal of the game at 10:56. Marek Zidlicky created the goal, breaking down the right side before throwing a blind backhander into the slot from the bottom of the face-off circle. Erat tipped the puck directly onto the Predators captain’s stick five feet out, and Arnott made no mistake about it, beating Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin glove side.
The marker gave Arnott nine points (4g-5a) in his past seven games, giving him 17 points on the year, tied with David Legwand for the team lead.
The final nine minutes of the first were a tug-of-war, with shots through 20 minutes even at 8-8. Ryan Suter and Jordin Tootoo came closest to giving the Preds a two-goal lead, with Suter’s blast sneaking behind Khabibulin, before coming to rest next to the right post.
Chicago came out firing in the second, and evened the score at one apiect at 5:11. While skating with the man advantage, rookie Jonathan Toews capitalized on a turnover just inside the Nashville blue line, and beat Mason five-hold from the inside-edge of the left face-off circle.
“That goal really gave the momentum to them, and we started getting away from our game,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Given the offensive-minded team we were dealing with, if you give them a lot of time and space like that, the skilled guys are going to make plays.”
Radek Bonk jumps against the glass after scoring the go-ahead goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period.
A shot that was deflected twice found its way by Mason high glove side at 12:12 of the second frame to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. James Wisniewski got goal, tipping a Jim Vandermeer effort. Before it grazed off Wisniewski and in though, the drive ricocheted off Erat’s stick, giving Mason no chance at following the puck.
Just 2:45 later, the Blackhawks claimed a two-goal lead on Patrick Sharp’s seventh of the year. Sharp was left all alone at the top of the crease to pound home a centering pass from defenseman Duncan Keith.
The lackluster period ended with a bit of a spark by the Preds, thanks in large part to a great individual effort by Alexander Radulov, who ended the night with his third multi-point effort in five outings. Though his chance – which started by undressing a defenseman – was directed into the corner by Khabibulin, Nashville mustered a power play off the ensuing pressure it applied. Fifty-three seconds of the hooking call to Rene Bourque carried over to the third period.
Nashville didn’t score on the man advantage, but created the momentum that led to its second goal at 4:55 of the third. The marker came due to the work of all three forwards, as Legwand, positioned along the boards, relinquished possession to a streaking Fiddler, who carried the puck behind the goal line. He connected on a pass to Radulov in the slot, and he popped it low glove side for his fourth goal of the season.
I am just trying to work hard and create chances,” Radulov said. “I like playing with Leggy and Fids – they are great players that bring a different look to the line. They are both talented, and we fit well together.”
The trio of Legwand, Fiddler and Radulov struck again at 10:07 to lock the game in a 3-3 tied. This time, it was Legwand that created the chance, wheeling from deep in the zone to the top of the point, all while searching for a lane. His patience resulted in a shot that redirected off Fiddler’s left skate and through the Hawks netminder’s legs.
Jordin Tootoo runs over Chicago defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to get the crowd going in the third period.
“We talked about it as training camp – we are going to have to win as a team,” Trotz said. “If one line gets shut down another line needs to step up. Today, Legwand’s line stepped up and got us a couple of important goals. Guys are finding a way to step up and contribute.”
Two second period assists gave Legwand points (3g-4a) in six of his past seven games.
Radulov capped off the third period comeback with a beautiful pass to Bonk for the go-ahead goal with just 3:18 left in regulation. The sophomore winger’s elusive stick-handling skills created him enough time and space to find Bonk jostling for position on the back door. The big centerman lifted the puck over Khabibulin for his seventh marker as a Predator. Dan Hamhuis collected his second assist in three games as well.
“It was a good play by Hammer to find me down behind the net,” Radulov said. “I found Radek driving to the net between two guys, and all I had to do was make the play – I was a bit lucky it found its way through the defenders.”
The Blackhawks fought back however, using a late Nashville penalty and a pulled goaltender to pot the equalizer at 19:17. The goal came from the stick of Jason Williams via a pass from leading rookie scorer Patrick Kane.
They could have been entirely deflated by the late goal by Williams, but instead the Preds came out determined to finish the job quick, getting Erat’s marker with a mere 19 seconds having ticked off the clock. After a lengthy chat between the officials and the “War Room” Toronto, the fans went home happy, with their team having won its fourth straight home game.
“When I am playing with Bonk, we just try to bear down on the puck and force the other guys to make mistakes,” Erat said. “I just drove to the net and he made a great play – it went from the goalie to their defenseman and into the net.”
The Predators return to the Sommet Center ice for their sixth of eight straight against Central Division opponents when they welcome the St. Louis Blues to town for the first time all season on Saturday. Don’t miss former Pred Paul Kariya’s return to the Music City – tickets are still available by calling (615) 770-PUCK, visiting the Sommet Center Box Office located in the arena tower, and by logging onto nashvillepredators.com or ticketmaster.com
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Kevin Klein and Darcy Hordichuk from tonight’s game, while Chicago sat Brent Sopel and Andrei Zyuzin… The Preds are 4-0-1 vs. the Central Division through five of eight straight intra-divisional matchups… Nashville is 9-0-0 when scoring first and 6-0-1 in November… The next meeting between the Hawks and Preds comes Dec. 19 at the United Center… David Legwand is just one point from tying Kimmo Timonen (301) atop the franchise’s all-time points list… Alexander Radulov now has 2-3-5 points in two games vs. Chicago this season… The Preds have now outscored opponents 18-6 in the third period during the past 10 games… Dan Hamhuis and Greg Zanon blocked a team-high three shots apiece… Radek Bonk won nine of 11 faceoffs.
1 - 0 NSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CHI
3 - 1 CHI
3 - 2 CHI
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 NSH
4 - 4 Tie
Greg De Vries
5 - 4 NSH
Hi stick - double minor
Holding the stick