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Preds beat Blackhawks via shootout; start new streak…

Ryan Suter and Martin Erat were both making their triumphant returns to the Nashville Predators lineup. It was a sold out building. It was their first home game in over two weeks. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion.

And it was.

In front of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds downed the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks by way of the shootout. After a resilient effort that saw Nashville rebound from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits, they used “the skills competition” to defeat Chicago for the second time this season.

Pekka Rinne, who didn’t exactly have his A-game early, made 29 saves (and then one more in the shootout) to register the victory. The 6’5″ netminder now has two wins in a row, both post-regulation.

“I thought he was just too busy early,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “And then as the game got more on the line, he got more in sync. I thought, as the game went on, he got more solid and that he was great in the shootout.”

The shootout was forced because the Predators couldn’t convert on a power play handed to them in the overtime session. Don’t get all riled up, however, as they had plenty – and I do mean plenty – of chances. The man advantage unit of Cal O’Reilly, Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber and Suter kept the pressure on the Hawks for a over a minute. Despite the shooting gallery, Nashville was unable to get one over the goal line.

O’Reilly scored in the first frame of the shootout and Chicago was unable to convert, giving the Preds the victory.

Something that’s become a pattern recently, Nashville’s opponents drew first blood. After failing to clear the puck out of their own zone, the Preds coughed it up and Jack Skille put one past Rinne. The goal drew a thunderous ovation from the Blackhawk faithful in attendance, which was a good number. It reminded a lot of fans of the early days of the Nashville franchise when the Detroit Red Wings contingent would almost out-number the home town fans, at least in the lower bowl.

In the second period, the Preds got things started. Well, actually, Marcel Goc got things started. After carrying the puck around the back of the net and then spinning around in the face-off dot, he made a cross-ice pass to a waiting Shane O’Brien who one-timed it to score his second goal of the season. In a perfect world, Goc gets credit for both assists on that goal as it was an incredible effort.

Goc has now tallied a point in six of his nine games this season. Offense was always in his arsenal but he’s never really started a season producing barely under a point-per-game clip.

“When we’re playing well, we’re moving around and supporting each other,” Goc said. “Whoever gets the points, gets the points. It’s just important for us to get points as a team so we can move up in the standings.”

Just minutes after Goc dazzled the crowd, Predators captain Weber put his team up by one by bombing one from the point and beating Marty Turco for the power play goal.

Less than a minute and a half later, however, Chicago tied the game when Viktor Stalberg wristed a laser from the far boards up and over Rinne’s glove.

Skille was having a career night, though, and would notch his second of the game soon thereafter. After he put Chicago up 3-2, there was a mood in the building as if the Preds were done. That mood must have skipped right over the Preds bench, however, as they came out flying. In an obvious statement that they were not going to lay down, Nashville started swarming Turco and starting hitting people and started sticking up for themselves.

The best example of this was when Bryan Bickell steamrolled Hornqvist in the Nashville zone. At full-speed, it was an clear charging call as Bickell left his feet to deliver the open-ice hit. Weber was not about to put up with that and immediately confronted Bickell by dropping the gloves. The Blackhawks forward – fortunately for him – sipped and fell to the ice before he could engage Weber. Weber was given four minutes for roughing and Bickell was given just two. And no, Bickell’s penalty was not for charging. He got away with that scott free.

I tweeted that anyone watching this game should get some rest during the intermission because the third period was going to be a ride.

And it was.

Just a minute in the Predators thought they’d tied the game at three. Cody Franson took a shot from the point and Hornqvist, who was in “his office” in front of Turco, deflected it in the net. Unfortunately, he deflected it off his foot by kicking it in. No goal.

After getting a charging penalty just moments later, Hornqvist returned to the ice and was a deciding factor in the game-tying goal. Franson fired a shot from the point and “Horn Dog” screened Turco to allow the puck to get through with just under 10 minutes remaining.

This was a game a classic. Not the kind of classic where the home team wins 8-0 like it was against the Red Wings back in February of 2008. But the kind of classic that was back-and-fourth, up-and-down and full of excitement. There were goals, sure, but moreso there were plenty of non-scoring momentum changers. Just a tremendous tilt that, regardless of who won, was sure to please every fan in the building.

Nashville will turn it’s attention to yet another road trip. The Maple Leafs are first up when the Preds travel to Toronto on Tuesday. Puck drops at 6:00pm Central but there is no TV, unless you have NHL Center Ice.

The Predators’ next home game is Wednesday, November 24 against the St. Louis Blues.

* Sullivan, in the opening seven minutes, made two horrendous decisions in his own zone. First, he passed the puck through the crease, then made a blind pass up the middle of the ice with two attacking Chicago forecheckers.
* The Predators killed off a long 5-on-3 Chicago power play that seemed to turn the tide late in the second.
* On the Nashville overtime power play, Weber had four shots. By himself. The Preds had five total.
* Weber was one of the best players on the ice tonight despite his minus-2 rating. He finished with a goal, eight shots, three hits and a whopping six penalty minutes. Oh yeah, a proposed fight defending Hornqvist.
* O’Reilly had his five game scoring streak snapped. He did manage to get credit with the game-winning goal thanks to the shootout, however. Go figure that one out.
* This was the first home win for the Preds since October 14.
* The only Predators not to have a shot on goal in this contest were Jerred Smithson and Sergei Kostitsyn.

MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME (as voted on with 5:45 remaining in regulation)
1) Jack Skille (CHI)
2) Marcel Goc (NSH)
3) Shane O’Brien (NSH)

1) Cal O’Reilly (NSH)
2) Jack Skille (CHI)
3) Shane O’Brien (NSH)