There were rumors earlier in the afternoon that the Hawks had made a deal with the New York Islanders, but that would have been tough on the team in Chicago; the Blackhawks had no healthy bodies up front if they had traded an NHL roster forward in that deal. The only healthy scratch was on Friday night at the United Center was Erik Gustafsson.
After replacing an on-ice practice with a film session and some conversations about being ready to play, the Blackhawks came out and looked pretty impressive in the game’s opening minutes. In fact, while Matt Duchene sat in the penalty box beginning at 2:47 into the first, Chicago put seven shots on net during an power play that saw the puck in the Nashville end of the ice for almost the entire two minutes.
Pekka Rinne was exceptional all night, though. He stood on his head while the Hawks ran out to a big early shot total and kept Chicago off the scoreboard.
Slowly, his teammates started to take control of the momentum. And Nashville started to dominate the puck.
At one point in the first period the Blackhawks had a 12-2 shot advantage. At the end of the first period Chicago had out-shot Nashville 12-10. Neither team scored.
In the opening 40 minutes both teams had a parade to the penalty box. Following Duchene’s early penalty, Nashville served one more penalties in the first period; the Blackhawks were short-handed once. During the Blackhawks’ penalty kill Brandon Saad was awarded a short-handed penalty shot that was stopped by Rinne.
The second period saw the Blackhawks short-handed three times. Duncan Keith went to the box twice in the period; he hadn’t been called for a penalty since Nov. 21 – a stretch of 29 games.
Nashville was all over the Hawks in the second and Mattias Ekholm scored the game’s first goal. It came at even strength at 14:56, just a few seconds after Rinne made a huge save on a Jonathan Toews opportunity.
The Preds out-shot the Hawks 20-9 in the second period. It didn’t feel that close.
Early in the third period three penalties were called in a span of 102 seconds. Slater Koekkoek went to the box for the third time in three periods to start. Ryan Johansen leveled the playing field with a penalty of his own 31 seconds later. And then Filip Forsberg joined Johansen 1:09 later to give the Blackhawks a brief two-man advantage.
The Blackhawks scored on the power play.
Repeating: the Blackhawks scored on the power play.
Alex DeBrincat tipped a Patrick Kane shot in to tie the game.
The second assist gave Keith 600 career regular season points. Kane’s assist moved him in front of Pat LaFontaine into sole possession of 86th place on the NHL’s all-time list with 1,014 career regular season points.
For as good as Rinne was on one end of the ice, Corey Crawford was equally exceptional for Chicago. Both made huge saves in the third period, perhaps none bigger than a couple from Rinne inside the final 30 seconds against Toews and Drake Cagguila.
Regulation ended with the score tied at one. Crawford had made 39 saves in 60 minutes. Rinne was credited with 36 saves.
In the final minutes of overtime Keith made a terrific defensive play and got the puck up the ice to a streaking DeBrincat. The struggling forward deposited his second of the night and 16th of the season to win the game for Chicago.
Crawford finished the night with 42 saves.
DeBrincat appeared to be determined to shoot himself out of his recent streak. He was credited with a team-leading eight shots on net.
Chicago’s blue line was physical all night. Koekkoek, Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy were credited with five hits each. Koekoek also blocked three shots and spent six minutes in the penalty box.