CHICAGO – The Nashville Predators got off to a slow start, picked up steam in the second period and held on at the very end.
Pekka Rinne was good all night long.
Rinne made 43 saves, and Nashville killed off six power plays, helping the Predators edge the Blackhawks, 2-1, on Friday.
“Our goalie played real well tonight,” Nashville forward Craig Smith said. “Kudos to him and our penalty killers. They were monsters.”
Smith followed Calle Jarnkrok’s first goal of the season with career goal No. 100, helping the Predators rebound from consecutive losses to Calgary and the New York Rangers. Nashville also lost, 2-1, to the Hawks in overtime during their first meeting on Oct. 14.
“Obviously, not the start we wanted, but we were able to hang in there, and then from the second period on, I thought we played pretty well and started creating more and more offense,” Rinne said.
Corey Crawford had 28 stops for Chicago, but the Hawks lost for the fourth time in five games. Coach Joel Quenneville tweaked his lines in search of more offense, and the Hawks generated plenty of opportunities but couldn’t finish with Rinne on top of his game in net.
“Usually if you play that way, you know you’re going to end up with a couple goals,” Hawks star Patrick Kane said, “so try to stay with it here, and hopefully it comes.”
Artem Anisimov scored in the first for the Hawks. John Hayden had a good look at a potential tying goal with 4:15 remaining, but Rinne was there.
The Hawks have only 11 regulation goals in their last six games.
“It’s a tough loss, but we played well,” Crawford said. “We can definitely build on a lot of things tonight.”
Nashville was outplayed for most of the first period, but rebounded nicely in the second. Jarnkrok picked off a bad pass by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and beat Crawford from the slot 57 seconds into the period, tying it at 1.
The Predators grabbed the lead on Smith’s power-play goal at 11:02. With Jan Rutta in the box for tripping, Smith sent a wrist shot past Crawford on the goaltender’s stick side for his second of the season.
The Blackhawks had three power plays of their own in the second, and the Predators killed off each one. They were outshot, 13-8, in the period despite all that time with the man advantage.
“Pekka gave us a chance after that first period, because we took on a lot of shots, a lot of attempts, a lot of zone time,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “He made so many big saves that allowed it to stay 1-0. And we got going after that. We were pretty good in the second and the third.”
Chicago got two of its best scoring opportunities with Nashville on the power play. Brandon Saad was denied on a short-handed breakaway about eight minutes into the game. Rinne turned away Nick Schmaltz on another breakaway late in the first, but Anisimov followed the play and knocked it in for his second of the season.
NOTES: Blackhawks forward Lance Bouma skated off gingerly after he blocked P.K. Subban’s shot early in the third, but returned to the game. ... Nashville swept Chicago in the first round of the playoffs last season. ... The Blackhawks had 21 shots in the first, matching their season high for any period. ... Saad celebrated his 25th birthday. ... Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen attended the game and played “Shoot The Puck” before the third period. Rinne said he planned to meet his fellow Finn after the victory.
Predators: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Blackhawks: Visit the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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