Rinne leads Predators past Blackhawks
CHICAGO (AP) — Even with their top point producer sidelined by an injury, the Nashville Predators had plenty of offense. And they had Pekka Rinne in goal Sunday night. That combination helped them rout the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 and move into fourth place in the Western Conference.
“I liked our response to anything that happened in the game. We got good efforts from everybody, from the goal out, we really did,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “The overall playoff picture probably doesn’t really matter to me right now. The most important thing is we’re going to focus on ourselves. We can’t worry about anything else.”
The victory gave the Predators 96 points, one more than Detroit and four more than the sixth-place Blackhawks, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. It also gave Nashville a 4-0-1 record against Chicago this season.
Nashville’s Martin Erat, who has tied a career high with 57 points, was scratched because of an upper-body injury after logging 19 minutes Saturday night in a win over Winnipeg.
“It doesn’t matter who we have in the lineup and how many offensive guys we have. That’s our game. We have to be solid defensively and work hard and keep it simple and the offensive part of the game is going to come,” said Rinne, who made 24 saves.
“I think tonight is a good example of that. We still have a lot of skill on the team and when we get our scoring chances, guys put the puck in the net.”
Chicago played its first game without suspended defenseman Duncan Keith. Keith got five games for elbowing Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin in the head in the Blackhawks’ previous game Wednesday night.
“It doesn’t matter who’s playing. We’ve been winning a lot of games with guys out,” Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’ve got to do a better effort out there. That’s what it’s all about. … They were better than us, pretty much, all over the ice.”
Matt Halischuk, Andrei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist, Francis Bouillon, Shea Weber and Mike Fisher scored for the Predators, who matched their season high with the six goals. Viktor Stalberg had Chicago’s lone score.
Halischuk scored from the slot at 6:16 of the first, a goal set up by some nice passing behind the net by Brandon Yip and Paul Gaustad.
Later in the period, Kositsyn’s shot from high in the left circle sailed over Corey Crawford’s blocker and into the net, giving the Preds a 2-0 lead.
Rinne had 11 first-period saves, three early in the game, and helped turn away two Blackhawks power plays to set the tone. Chicago was 0 for 4 on the power play without getting off a shot.
“I thought we were well-prepared for their power play. We have a strong penalty kill and it’s big again tonight,” Rinne said.
Hornqvist was credited with a deflection goal on the power play when Weber’s hard shot from the high slot broke the stick of Chicago’s Marian Hossa, went off Alexander Radulov’s skate and trickled past Crawford for a 3-0 lead in the second. The goal was upheld by video replay.
And after Bouillon’s long wrister from way out on the left boards eluded a screened Crawford two minutes into the final period to make it 4-0, Crawford was pulled in favor of Ray Emery. Crawford gave up four goals on just 15 shots.
“That wasn’t our team. That wasn’t me,” said Crawford, who’d won five straight. “Just got to forget about it plain and simple. …. It seemed like everything wasn’t going our way.”
Four minutes later, right after a Chicago power play ended, Stalberg scored from the left circle, ending Rinne’s shutout bid. But 36 seconds later, immediately after a faceoff, Weber rifled in a shot past Emery to restore Nashville’s four-goal lead. Fisher scored with 2:27 left.
NOTES: Former Blackhawks G Ed Belfour was honored by the team. He spent parts of eight seasons with Chicago during a 20-year NHL career and had a Blackhawks’ franchise-record 43 wins in 1990-91, his first full NHL season. His play helped the Blackhawks make the Stanley Cup finals in 1992. He also played for San Jose, Dallas, Toronto and Florida and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last November. He finished with a 484-320-125 record. … The Preds’ Jordin Tootoo, who was involved in a fight with Chicago’s Brandon Bolllig early in the game, didn’t return after the altercation in which he was knocked to the ice. He was said to have an upper-body injury … Chicago captain Jonathan Toews missed his 16th straight game with a concussion.