The Chicago Blackhawks got a 27-save performance by rookie goaltender Antti Raanta and scored twice on the power play to beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night.
Duncan Keith opened the scoring 1:29 into the game on Chicago's first shot on goal. The defenseman beat Predators goalie Carter Hutton blocker side with a slap shot from the top of the circles for his third goal.
Nashville captain Shea Weber tied the game via the power-play goal 1:34 later. Weber ripped a one-timer off a pass from Roman Josi with Marcus Kruger in the penalty box for a faceoff violation.
The Blackhawks capitalized on their first power-play chance to go into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead despite being outshot 17-10 in the opening period. Patrick Kane reached the 20-goal mark with 3:46 to go on a nifty backhander into the top right corner over Hutton's shoulder off a give-and-go with Patrick Sharp. It was his ninth goal on the power play, second in the League to Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (12).
"I thought we had a real good first period; you know, maybe one of our better first periods of the year and we're down 2-1. That's ironic how it is," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They're a good, high-executing team."
The Blackhawks went 2-for-5 on the power play.
"Two big goals tonight, especially getting that lead and them coming right back and scoring a power-play goal on us and answering with two of our own," Kane said of Chicago's power play. "You know, it's been hot for us, so hopefully we can keep it up."
The Predators were 1-for-7 with the man advantage against Chicago, which entered the game with the NHL's 29th-ranked penalty kill. Nashville failed to score during 3:07 of power-play time late in the second after Sharp was whistled for high sticking.
"It was huge. Obviously we gave up one early in the game and I thought we did a good job of bearing down after that on the penalty kill," Keith said. "It was good to see. Our penalty kill has kind of struggled throughout the year, but I think over our last four or five games, it's been a little bit better."
Not happy his team took two early penalties and seven overall, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was pleased by his team's overall performance.
"I liked our game. I liked the attention to detail, very business-like, getting off to a good start, and getting back in after the penalties," he said. "But we did a nice job, and our power play was big for us again."
The loss snapped Nashville's three-game winning streak. Trotz felt the game tilted in Chicago's favor when the Predators took four penalties in the second period.
"They drew some penalties and we had those long changes, and we had guys who were playing hard minutes," he said. "We turned pucks over at their blue line. We had two too-many-men penalties in that period. We gave them all of the momentum. Those are hard minutes on guys, and it sort of took a little steam out of our bench too."
The Blackhawks lead the League with 55 points. The game was Raanta's fifth straight start since he relieved injured Corey Crawford and earned a win Dec. 8 against the Florida Panthers. He improved to 7-1-1.
"He seems confident in the net. He seems like nothing really gets to him," Kane said of Raanta. "He's stepped in and done a really nice job for us."
Hutton, the NHL's Third Star of the Week, made 24 saves in the loss.
Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell returned to the lineup after missing the past 14 games with a lower-body injury. He got 9:40 in ice time on 13 shifts, registering one shot on goal.
Chicago begins a three-game homestand Friday against the Vancouver Canucks. Nashville will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday before beginning a stretch of four of five games at home.
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