Nashville survived the pressure and came away with a 3-1 win that moved them ahead of the Blackhawks into third place with 64 points in the highly contested Central Division. The Predators entered the All-Star break just three points behind division leading Detroit and a point behind the St. Louis Blues, who picked up a point earlier in the evening in a shoot-out loss to Pittsburgh.
Nashville got first period goals from Craig Smith and Mike Fisher and carried the 2-0 lead into the final period. Dave Bolland cut the lead in half at 7:20 in the third and the Hawks were like sharks smelling blood for the remainder of the contest.
Colin Wilson's empty net power play goal with 13 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
The real hero of the game was Pekka Rinne, who stopped 24 of 25 Hawk shots and withstood many other scoring chances. Corey Crawford was much better than he was last Saturday in Nashville as he stopped all but two of the Predators 26 shots.
Rinne extended his own team record of eight wins in a row and is now 18-2-0 in his last 20 decisions.
With the exception of All-Stars Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, and Craig Smith, the rest of the team will have some much needed time off before they regroup at Centennial Sportsplex next Monday to prepare for Tuesday's game in Minnesota.
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Goalies: Pekka Rinne (27-11-4, 2.39, .924) and Corey Crawford (18-11-4, 2.88, .902) started in net.
Scratches: Predators: Jerred Smithson (upper body), Francis Bouillon (upper body), and Brian McGrattan (healthy). Blackhawks: Sami Lepisto, John Scott, and Michael Frolik.
The game started with plenty of skating and few stoppages. There was only one stoppage in the first 5:51 of the game.
Smith continued his road game magic with a swinging wrister that got past Crawford at 11:49 to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. Brandon Yip was screening and Matt Hallischuk got the lone assist. It was Smith's team-leading 18th road point (7g, 11a) in 23 games.
Fisher extended the Preds lead to 2-0 at 17:34. An assist goes to Patric Hornqvist for a perfect soccer kick to Fisher who was open in front of the net. It was Fisher's third goal in two nights and his sixth road point versus 22 at Bridgestone Arena.
Fisher was called for tripping Patrick Kane 1:17 in to the period. The Preds had a shorthanded shot and the Hawks had none. At 3:50 Marty Erat drew a slashing call from Niclas Hjalmarsson and Nashville got two shots and no goals.
At 6:09, Duncan Keith was called for interference on Hornqvist. There were no shots on the Preds' man-advantage.
The Blackhawks got their first shot of the period at 8:19 when Marcus Kruger put a shot on Rinne.
Brandon Yip and Steve Montador squared off in a bit of a scrap at 13:12 and were sent to the box for five minute fighting majors.
Fisher had a chance at his second goal at 4:21 when Erat sent the puck to him in the slot but Crawford made a great save.
Chicago had been putting consistent pressure on Nashville and got a break at 6:53 when Fisher flipped the puck over the ice at 6:53. Bolland wasted no time in converting the power play at 7:20 as Andrew Burnette did a good job of screening Rinne. Marion Hossa and Lick Leddy assisted on the power play goal. It was the first power play goal given up by the Preds in eight games.
The Hawks continued to pressure the Predators and Erat was called for high-sticking Hossa at 8:41. Officially, Chicago did not have a shot but the did have several scoring chances. Nashville really appeared to be showing the effects of the back to back games during the near consecutive penalty kills.
Things deteriorated further at 15:17 when Shea Weber elbowed Andrew Shaw to put Chicago back on the power play. The Predators got a short-handed shot and the Hawks were shotless.
At 17:59, Kostitsyn passed to Erat in the slot on a two on one rush and Erat appeared to hit the pipe and the crossbar on a miss.
Unbelievably, Chicago was called for too many men on the ice at 18:09 to put the Predators back on the man advantage. Wilson got the empty net power play goal with 13 seconds left to end the game at 3-1.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass