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Preds hang seven on Blackhawks

They’ve had their number as of late. Coming into the night, the Nashville Predators were 3-1-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

After Saturday, you can make that 4-1-0.

In front of 17,355 at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds and Hawks engaged in a wild one but, in the end, it was the home team winning by the score of 7-5. Seven different Predators scored as they improved to 37-32-12 on the season, including an impressive 8-1-2 in their last 11. It may be too little, too late now but this run is giving Nashville confidence for the future.

“It’s tough,” Patric Hornqvist said. “Obviously there are four months until the next home game but I think it was great for our fans to see what we’re all about. When we are playing good, we can beat any team in the league and, obviously, it will give us some confidence for next year too.”

“It’s just a little too late,” Ryan Ellis admitted. “If we started it a couple games earlier, we’d probably be talking a different story. But it’s great to see everyone clicking, making plays and winning games.”

The Preds fell behind 2-0 and 3-2 but then took the lead and nearly squandered it a few times.

“It was sort of a microcosm of the whole season,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “We dug ourselves a hole and dug ourselves out. Got back in and got back out. We took the lead and gave it back.”

Pekka Rinne wasn’t exactly at the top of his game tonight but still improved to .500 on the year by turning aside 20 Chicago shots. He’s now 10-10-3 in his injury-shortened campaign.

Less than 5:00 into the game, the Blackhawks drew first blood. A trailing Ben Smith received a drop pass from Brandon Saad and snapped it past Rinne to take the early 1-0 lead.

A little later, Marian Hossa showed why he’s one of the most exciting players in the game. After a Nashville turnover that resulted in a Chicago rush the other way, Hossa caught Gabriel Bourque flat-footed and skated around him before wrapping around the net and stuffing home the goal that made it 2-0.

“Two goals is a lot against a good team like that but it shows the character in this room,” Ellis said. “We never quit and we’ll never say die.”

Just seconds later, Craig Smith answered. While Paul Gaustad was fighting for a loose puck off the face-off in the Chicago zone, Smith collected it and wristed a laser past Antti Raanta to pull within one.

In the second stanza, Ellis took a pass from Mike Fisher to tie the score. With all the action in the corner and behind the Chicago net, Ellis was able to sneak into the high slot undetected. Fisher saw him and the former Windsor Spitfire gave his club the tying goal.

Chicago rookie winger Matt Carey scored his first career goal in order to put the visitors up, 3-2. The former St. Lawrence Saint ducked around Nashville forward Calle Jarnkrok and Saad found him for the tally.

In the third, Matt Cullen tallied his 10th of the season when he banged home a Fisher rebound and re-tied the game.

The Preds were finally able to take the lead when a Shea Weber blast got free from Raanta and Colin Wilson put home the rebound to make it 4-3.

The Blackhawks would get it right back, however. Jeremy Morin tried to center a pass to a couple of his teammates crashing the net but the puck got in behind Rinne. Roman Josi tried to clear it off the line but, instead, he knocked over the line, tying the contest for Chicago.

Just when the sold out crowd and national TV audience though the tilt was headed to overtime, the craziness started. With just over 3:00 remaining, Gaustad took a gorgeous pass from Smith and registered his 10th of the year to make it 5-4.

It wasn’t over yet, however. Andrew Shaw got the equalizer for his club just moments later on a goal that Rinne would like to have back.

But we weren’t done yet. Hornqvist scored his 22nd of the year and put Nashville up for good just 0:36 later.

Weber would add the empty netter from about 190 feet away to seal this one for the Predators.

“This game was all about us never giving up, no matter what the score was,” Hornqvist said. “We showed a lot of character tonight.”

Nashville will close out their disappointing 2013-14 campaign against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. Carter Hutton will likely get a chance to notch his 20th win of the season in that one.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central and you can catch the game on 102.5 The Game and Fox Sports Tennessee.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:12 remaining in regulation):
1. Brandon Saad (CHI)
2. Mike Fisher (NSH)
3. Ryan Ellis (NSH)

1. Patric Hornqvist (NSH)
2. Mike Fisher (NSH)
3. Brandon Saad (CHI)