NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Juuse Saros and the Nashville Predators are making a push for a playoff spot.
Not so much for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Saros made 41 saves and the surging Predators beat the Blackhawks 3-0 on Saturday.
Eeli Tolvanen, Colton Sissons and Luke Kunin scored for the Predators, winners of seven of eight.
”This game was goaltending and special teams,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. ”We found a way to win a game where we didn’t have a ton in the emotional bank account.”
The Blackhawks lost for the fourth time in five games. Kevin Lankinen made 18 saves.
With the victory, Nashville moved two points ahead of Chicago for fourth place in the Central Division. The top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs this season. Nashville has won all five meetings between the teams this season.
”Hockey is a weird game,” Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome said. ”I felt like we played pretty good and had a lot a chances, just ran into a hot goalie and they scored on their chances.”
Strome was one of three Chicago skaters to record a team-high five shots on goal.
It was Saros’ second shutout of the season and No. 13 for his career. He had to be sharp, with the Blackhawks controlling much of the action.
Tolvanen scored his 10th goal 5:56 into the first period. With Nashville on a power play, Tolvanen’s slap shot from the top of the left circle beat Lankinen high to the stick side just under the cross bar.
Sissons made it 2-0 at 10:14 of the second on a penalty shot. It was Sissons’ sixth of the year.
With the Predators short-handed, Sissons was hooked down from behind by Chicago’s Adam Boqvist. On the penalty shot, Sissons skated in slowly from the right side before drifting toward the slot and beating Lankinen with a wrist shot that went off of the inside of the left post.
”I was a little bit nervous heading into that, but I had an idea pretty early on what I was going to do,” Sissons said.
Kunin’s third goal at 9:54 of the third gave Nashville a 3-0 lead. Defenseman Jeremy Davies picked up an assist for his first career NHL point.
BIG PENALTY KILL
Nashville entered Saturday with the NHL’s worst penalty kill percentage at 72.1%, but its penalty killers came up big against the Blackhawks. In addition to Sissons’ penalty shot, the Predators killed off all four Chicago power play opportunities, including 1:55 of a 5-on-3 advantage early in the third.
”Obviously special teams is a big difference in the game,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. ”They got one early, which they didn’t get much other than that in the first 30 minutes of the game. They get the breakaway and the penalty shot on their power play and it was 2-0. From there, we get the 5-on-3 with the chance to turn the game or get some momentum. Obviously that power play was a chance to break through and get some momentum and we just couldn’t do it.”
A BIG PLUS
With an assist on Tolvanen’s power-play goal, Roman Josi became the highest scoring Swiss-born NHL player with 435 points. The Predators captain surpassed Mark Streit. Streit, also a defenseman, is the only other Swiss-born captain in NHL history. Saturday was Josi’s 664th NHL game. Streit played in 786 games in 12 NHL seasons.
Nashville lost forward Viktor Arvidsson in the second when he collided with Chicago’s Kirby Dach just inside the Chicago blue line. At 11:14, Arvidsson was skating after the puck carrier with his head down when he collided with Dach’s midsection. Arvidsson remained down on the ice for several minutes before being helped off to the dressing room.
The team said Arvidsson left with ”some upper-body discomfort.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Predators announced defenseman Alexandre Carrier would be sidelined for three to five weeks with a lower-body injury. Nashville has been besieged with injuries this season, especially among its blueliners. Ryan Ellis, Mark Borowiecki and Luca Sbisa are on injured reserve, along with forwards Matt Duchene and Brad Richardson. Additionally, forward Filip Forsberg is listed as week to week with an upper-body injury.
The Predators travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Tuesday.
The Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
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