After a tough road loss in Nashville on Monday, Jeremy Colliton made a few roster changes before the Blackhawks hosted the Predators on Wednesday. Brandon Hagel was cleared of a false-positive COVID test and was able to return. Adam Boqvist also returned, clearing concussion protocol in time for this important game. Malcolm Subban was between the pipes for Colliton in this second of three consecutive games against the Preds.
Adam Gaudette and Dylan Strome were out of the lineup. Wyatt Kalynuk and Nikita Zadorov stayed in; Chicago opted to go with seven defensemen on home ice.
The Hawks needed to get off to a fast start but they were fighting it in the opening couple minutes. The second(?) line for Chicago created a turnover and made a play and Pius Suter gave the Hawks an early 1-0 lead. Hagel was credited with the assist; Vinnie Hinostroza created the turnover that turned into the scoring chance.
Now the Hawks would need to hang onto a lead against a Nashville team that has owned them all year.
Subban made a few big saves, but Brett Connolly made a huge save – for Nashville. A Kalynuk shot appeared to be on it’s way to the top left corner of the net but Connolly, whose stick was raised for a redirect, caught the entire puck flush on the stick blade and kept it out.
The Preds gave the Blackhawks the first power play of the night at 11:29 into the first period. Chicago put good pressure on Nashville for most of the advantage but weren’t able to get a clean shot on net.
After the penalty ended, Hagel attempted a drop pass that found the wrong color sweater. A cross-ice pass to Victor Arvidsson was on point and he out-worked Connor Murphy, absorbing contact and easily making his way around the net where he left a pass on the doorstep for a wide open Eeli Tolvanen, who returned to the Preds lineup after missing the previous seven games.
Neither side scored in the final five minutes of the first period and the two teams went to their respective rooms tied at one. Subban was a busy man; Nashville was credited with 16 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. The Hawks put 11 shots on net.
Calvin de Haan skated 3:40 in the first period with one hit, one blocked shot and one shot on net. His hip issue was a problem and the team announced he would not return for the remainder of the game. The fact that Colliton rolled with seven defensemen is understandable, but to do so with one who isn’t 100 percent going into the game is ridiculous – especially with Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin watching like the rest of us.
Chicago got another power play 36 seconds into the second period. This advantage wasn’t nearly as threatening as the Hawks’ first try; Chicago failed to get a shot on net over the two minutes.
The next power play went to Nashville as Ryan Carpenter took a seat seven minutes into the period. Chicago continued turning the puck over in their own zone, making killing a penalty a bigger struggle than trying to survive at even strength.
Zadorov hammered Erik Haula during the penalty kill and it took Haula a moment to get back to his feet. The Blackhawks were able to kill the penalty and Kirby Dach had a great scoring chance at the end of the kill. Unfortunately, Dach was at the end of a long shift and couldn’t elevate the puck to give the Hawks the lead.
Starting 12 minutes into the second period, Nashville was all over the Blackhawks – who couldn’t clear the zone to save their lives. Zadorov lost his stick at one point, Subban made a few enormous saves but couldn’t control the puck. Inevitably the puck found the back of the net; Colton Sissons appeared to settle down a puck above his shoulders with a high stick that wasn’t called and beat everyone to the net to give the Preds a 2-1 lead.
At the time of the Sissons goal, the shots in the period were 11-4 in favor of Nashville.
In the final second of the period, Mikael Granlund absolutely danced Connor Murphy and ripped a shot past Subban. The clock showed 0.7 left in the period and the Blackhawks were now chasing two goals – again.
After 40 minutes, Nashville had a 30-21 shot advantage. The Preds had 17 shots on net that came from the slot. Thirty shots in two periods in a must-win game in which the Blackhawks dressed seven defensemen. That’s ugly no matter how you want to spin it.
The Blackhawks had to start the third period well. They had to.
So Murphy lost his helmet, couldn’t get it back on straight and – of course – the puck went into the net. Again. Luke Kunin was all alone on the back side of the goal and easily added a fourth goal to the Nashville side of the scoreboard.
The score was 4-1 less than 60 seconds into the third period.
One minute later, Boqvist took a dumb cross-checking penalty to put the Blackhawks short-handed. The absolute worst case scenario was unfolding again.
It took almost nine minutes for the next goal to be scored. Nashville had a few more long shifts in the Blackhawks’ zone, putting more pressure on Subban who did his best to keep the score 4-2. But the next good chance the Hawks had went in off the stick of Kalynuk, cutting the lead to two with 10 minutes left in regulation.
Patrick Kane made one of those special passes that maybe a half dozen players on the planet could conceive of – much less attempt – to set up Kalynuk for the goal.
Less than 80 seconds later, Dach made a gorgeous pass to Hinostroza who made the deposit and the Blackhawks were suddenly down one.
Nashville immediately called their timeout. For the first time this year, the Blackhawks had three goals on the board against the Predators.
Because the empty United Center wasn’t in need of fans enough, Dominik Kubalik scored 100 seconds after the Hinostroza goal and shockingly the game was tied.
With the flurry of three goals from the Blackhawks, the momentum was clearly wearing red. So when Arvidsson hacked Alex DeBrincat with a high stick right off the faceoff following the Kubalik goal sending the Hawks to a power play, the excitement outside the building was at a climax.
Arvidsson would sit for four minutes.
The Preds put on a penalty killing clinic over the full four minutes of the penalties. There wasn’t a single whistle on the power play, a credit to Nashville for keeping the puck alive and taking time off the clock.
Neither side scored in the final minutes of regulation and we headed to overtime.
Subban stopped 35 of 39 in regulation and made a series of enormous saves to keep his team alive. Duncan Keith (25:05) was the only defenseman over 21 minutes. And Kubalik had a team-leading five shots on net in 17 minutes of action before the session of free hockey.
With two minutes on the clock in overtime, Hagel ripped a shot home that found the back of the net. And the Chicago Blackhawks finished off a marvelous comeback with an overtime winner.
Hagel finished the night with the game-winning goal and two assists in another terrific performance. Hinostroza and Dach were credited with the assists on Hagel’s goal, giving Dach two helpers in the game and Hinostroza two points (one goal and one assist).
The unfortunate reality is that Nashville picking up one point for the game going overtime means this emotional win doesn’t help as much in the standings as it does the confidence on the bench.