It seemed as if the Nashville Predators had no shot to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday as long as the sides played at even strength. That’s because they got so few shots when the teams had five skaters each.
Good thing some penalties were called.
Joel Ward scored his first goal of the season when he redirected a pass from Francis Bouillon 1:13 into a second-period power play. That led Nashville (5-6-1) to its second victory in as many nights, this one a 2-0 triumph over the defensive-minded Blackhawks before 13,585 at Sommet Center.
“Every time we had a chance to create some offense, to jump in the play and do something we tried to do it,” Bouillon said. “That made a difference (Thursday).”
For the game, the Predators outshot the Blackhawks 28-22. However, 18 of Nashville’s attempts came during the 10:31 it had at least a one-man advantage and only nine came in the 39:46 when the teams had equal manpower.
The game’s only other goal was scored when Chicago completely abandoned its defense. Jerred Smithson scored shorthanded into an empty net with 3.9 seconds remaining.
“It’s always fun (to score),” Smithson, who has a goal in each of the last two games, said. “I can be a defensive, hard-nosed guy so I want to try and contribute where I can.”
Speaking of defensive-minded, Chicago (7-4-1) came into the night with a league-best average of 22.3 shots against per game. That was more than four shots fewer per game than any other team had allowed.
In the Blackhawks’ first visit to town this season (Oct. 15), Nashville was held to a season-low 13 in a 3-1 defeat. The Predators also lost 2-0 last Saturday at Chicago.
“You knew they were going to be hungry and desperate because the first two outcomes weren’t in their favor,” Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville said. “The difference was we didn’t cash in on our opportunities.”
Ward, however, did. It was on the Predators’ fourth shot of a power play that began when Chicago defenseman Cam Barker was sent off for cross-checking with 6:20 to go in the period. J.P. Dumont, David Legwand and Cody Franson all chances that preceded the goal.
Prior to the penalty, though, Nashville failed to register a single shot in the second. After Ward scored, the only shot before the second intermission was a relatively harmless effort by Dave Scatchard from just inside the blue line with less than a minute to play.
It was another 5:22 into the third period before Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet faced another puck. Yet when three Blackhawks were sent to the box in the final 3:47, the Predators unleashed a flurry of 11 shots.
Similarly, in the first period Nashville ripped off four shots – three by Shea Weber, one by Bouillon – in the final 3:27 of the first period, a stretch that saw two penalties called against Chicago.
Ward’s goal also was the Predators’ second on the power play in as many nights and the first time this season they converted in consecutive contests. Weber had a power-play goal in Wednesday’s 4-3 victory at Minnesota.
“Our power play has come through a couple times in the last two games for us,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… We’re just pounding pucks, making good solid decisions, going to the hard areas and we’re scoring goals.
“That’s how you have to do it on the power play.”
• Goalie Pekka Rinne recorded the first shutout of the season for Nashville and the eighth of his career. He also stopped all 12 shots he faced Wednesday in relief of Dan Ellis.
He has wins in each of his last three appearances.
“I’ve been feeling a little better and it’s a really good feeling,” Rinne said.
• Forward Martin Erat was scratched with what was called a lower body injury. He was injured during Wednesday’s game at Minnesota and the plan was that he would be reevaluated Friday or Saturday.
“He didn’t think there was much there and then (Thursday) afternoon he just didn’t have enough to go,” Trotz said.
Erat had one goal, no assists and a team-worst minus-9 rating in the first 11 contests.
• The Predators and Blackhawks have played three times this season. All three times the first period has ended in a scoreless tie.
• Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist had one penalty in the first 11 games. He had three – one in each period — in this one.
• The Predators have scored four goals in their last four home games.
• Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor) missed his 12th straight game and center Jason Arnott (upper body) missed his fifth straight due to injuries.
• Defenseman Alexander Sulzer was a healthy scratch.