Saturday, March 15, 2014
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Predators continue to streak with win over Blackhawks

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[March 15, 2014]  CHICAGO  The Nashville Predators came into Friday's game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks ready to prove they are better than their last-place ranking in the NHL Central Divison indicates.

Sixty minutes after the opening faceoff, they had done just that.

The Predators rode defenseman Ryan Ellis's early third-period goal  just 25 seconds in  and held on to defeat the Blackhawks 3-2 at the United Center.

"I was just fortunate enough to time it right," Ellis said of his game-winner. "(Teammate and fellow defenseman Roman) Josi made a great play with the blocked shot and then tape-to-tape pass through the zone.

"I'm usually pretty good at breakaways and I just put up a pretty good move and luckily it went in."

Nashville won its third straight game after losing its previous four and climbed above the .500 mark at 29-28-10.

Chicago lost its third game in the last six and fell to 38-15-14. The Blackhawks remain in third place in the Central Division.

"It's just another case of us finally playing the way we can, the way we're supposed to, but it's just too late again," said Chicago captain and center Jonathan Toews, who scored the first Blackhawks' goal of the game.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 31 of Chicago's 33 shots for only his sixth win of his injury-interrupted season (6-7-1).

Playing in his 200th career NHL game, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford stopped 26 of the Predators' 29 shots to see his individual season record drop to 25-12-10.

Nashville took a 2-0 lead in the first period on center Mike Fisher's 17th goal at 15:33 and right winger Patric Hornqvist's 13th goal, on the power-play, at 18:51.

As the final seconds of the opening period ticked off the clock, Toews had a perfect give-and-go exchange with teammate Kris Versteeg in front of Rinne, who was left sprawled on the ice trying to stop the duo.

Toews slipped an easy slap shot past Rinne for his 26th goal of the season, closing the score to 2-1 with 14 seconds left.

"The first 5-10 minutes weren't bad, (but it was) tough to watch the last part of the first period," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That was as bad as we've probably played for any stretch all year.

"(Toews' goal) at the end of the period gave us a little hope. In that second period, we were better. The last 10 minutes we were fine. But I'm not happy with our game."

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The Predators improved to 18-1-1 after holding the edge at the end of the first period in games this season.

After a scoreless second period, Ellis' goal in the opening minute of the third period put the Predators ahead 3-1.

At 9:32 of the final stanza, center Peter Regin, acquired from the Islanders in early February, deflected defenseman Johnny Oduya's slap shot from just inside the blueline to close Nashville's edge to 3-2.

"We're putting ourselves in tough situations by not starting well and just getting away from our team game, so not much of an explanation  but we know we need better right now," Toews said. "We need to get out of this kind of trend that we're in right now."

Nashville took a 2-1 edge over Chicago in a season series that still has two regular-season matches remaining between them in the respective 15 regular season games each team has (March 23 at Chicago and April 12 at Nashville).

Even with the loss, Chicago still leads the all-time series between the two teams (45-32-4-8).

NOTES: Attendance was 22,106. ... NFL Hall of Famer and Chicago Bears great Dick Butkus attended the game. ... Beginning Friday, the Blackhawks will play six of their next seven games at the United Center. ... After practicing Friday morning, Chicago F Marian Hossa hopes to return to action either Sunday (vs. Detroit) or Tuesday (vs. Philadelphia) after missing the last two weeks with an upper-body injury. Hossa, who has 24 goals (fourth on the team) and 26 assists, was injured in the March 1 Stadium Series game at Chicago's Soldier Field vs. Pittsburgh. ... Chicago coach Joel Quenneville came into the game just two wins from 700 in his NHL career. By comparison, Nashville's Barry Trotz came into the game two wins from tying Marc Crawford for 13th on the NHL's career coaching wins list. ... Nashville (124) and Chicago (122) have been more fortunate in lost man-games to injury than most other NHL clubs. ... Predators F Victor Stalberg's next game will be the 300th of his NHL career.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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