As much as Saturday’s game between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks was significant in terms of the Western Conference standings, it also had the feel of a battle between their respective fan bases to see which could pump up the volume more.
Both sides were well represented among the sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. And both sides had plenty to cheer.
Ultimately, it was the majority — those who rooted for the home team — that went away disappointed. Nashville’s spirited rally from a four-goal deficit produced an all too brief moment of euphoria. Chicago quickly responded and sent the Predators to a 5-4 defeat in the final regular-season meeting between the teams.
“It was a weird game,” defenseman Ryan Suter, who tied his career-high with three assists, said. “It was pretty intense. The fans were nuts. It was a loud game.
“When they scored it was almost like we scored because they had a lot of fans in the building.”
The teams combined for 10 power plays and four power-play goals. Both had runs of four consecutive goals and rarely was the score tied. It was 0-0 for just the first 3:25 of the contest and 4-4 for just 69 seconds after Nashville climbed out of the hole it dug for itself.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook broke the second deadlock and put Chicago on top for good when he scored with 11:41 to play.
“It takes a lot out of you to come back from 4-0,” center David Legwand said. “If you give a good team a 4-0 lead it’s tough. We had our chances to win the hockey game, and we didn’t.”
The Predators did not make their run all at once. It happened in two quick bursts.
Shea Weber scored twice, which gave him 19 for the season and tied him with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the league lead among defensemen.
He got first just 49 seconds after Martin Erat finally put the Predators on the board. It came at 10:18 of the second period with a relatively soft shot from just inside the blue line.
The second was a more traditional blast from the point with 12:50 remaining and tied it at 4-4. Just 2:32 earlier, Alexander Radulov’s highlight-reel goal, in which he split two defenseman and beat goalie Corey Crawford with a backhand up high, made it a one-goal game.
"What a hockey game," Crawford said. "It was crazy. We're up by four and you dont want to give that away. But great job by our guys not to panic and fall apart after they came back.
"... That was just a good hockey game."
All told, it took the Predators just under 19 minutes to erase the four-goal lead that Chicago built over the first 28:35 of the contest.
“We knew if we got that third one we had a chance to win it,” Suter said. “Obviously, when the other team comes back you get a little tight so we knew that would happen to them. We were able to tie it up, we just weren’t able to finish it off or take it to overtime.”
When all was said and done, the Predators remained alone in fourth place in the West but were just one point ahead of both Detroit, which has a game in hand, and Chicago.
“I thought we showed great character coming back,” coach Barry Trotz said. “When you’re looking at the scoreboard and you’re down four [goals] … and you get it to 4-4 you want to make sure you get a point.”
• Nashville was shorthanded six times and allowed two power-play goals. None of its previous 10 games had more than six power plays by the Predators and their opponents combined.
“I don’t agree with all the calls but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Trotz said.
• David Legwand became the first player to record 500 career points for Nashville when he had the assist on Weber’s second goal.
“Hopefully we’ll get the 501st win … and get to the 100-point barrier and move forward from there,” Legwand said.
• Trotz was recognized during a first-period timeout for his 500th career victory, which he recorded a night earlier in the Predators’ 4-1 victory at Detroit.
• With his three assists, Suter set career-highs for assists (39) and points (46) in a season. Defenseman Kevin Klein also set a career-high in points (19) with an assist on Radulov’s goal.