NASHVILLE – It’s hard to beat perfection.
The Nashville Predators found that out Saturday night when the Chicago Blackhawks played what coach Joel Quenneville called the “perfect road game” in a 4-1 victory.
“It was an important game for us and we responded,” Quenneville said. “We did a lot of things right. I thought we got to the net well. I thought we moved the puck well. Every line was contributing. We were good in all areas.”
Cristobal Huet made 25 saves for the Blackhawks, earning his third win in five starts against the Predators this season.
The win gave the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks a six point lead over the second-place Predators in the Central Division. The two teams will complete the six-game regular-season series Sunday night in Chicago.
“When you play back-to-back games winning the first one is always nice,” Huet said. “I think we can expect a little more from Nashville when we play them again.”
The Blackhawks, with 40 shots, got balanced scoring from Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp with a goal apiece.
Jonathan Toews and Tomas Kopecky each had two assists.
“It’s fun to see guys get scoring chances,” Towes said. “What makes our team dangerous is you can’t just key on two or three guys, especially forwards.
“All four lines were producing. This was one of those games where we needed an effort from everybody. We are going to have to give an even better effort Sunday night.”
Quenneville doesn’t see the early end to the series as either an advantage or disadvantage.
“It is unusual that we are going to play our last game with them,” Quenneville said. “This one is also important for everyone involved and we have to respond in kind. Who knows if it is a good thing to be done with them this early?”
While the Blackhawks were getting contributions from all areas, the Predators struggled to get into the game.
“There has to be more urgency and more fire in the belly,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “It was not just another game against Chicago. It’s not one of 82. You are battling for something. If we’re not battling then our expectations for ourselves are too low.”
The Predators were hit with back-to-back minor penalties in the first period. After killing off the first penalty, the Predators were unable to stop the Blackhawks on the second. Byfuglien scored with a wrist shot through traffic from just inside the blue line at the 9:44 mark against Pekka Rinne.
Martin Erat tied it at 7:38 of the second, beating Huet on a breakaway.
The Blackhawks scored two goals in a 1:10 span of the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Kane scored first and Ladd scored on a backhander at 13:36.
With 1:13 left in the second, Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 4-1 edge off a rebound.
“Those goals are the kind of plays we want to continue to have throughout the year,” Sharp said. “It starts with battles down low and a lot of shots from the slot and the point. We have to have guys going to the net and scoring in the dirty areas.”
NOTES: Byfuglien has three goals in five games against Nashville. … Erat has three goals and one assist in four games against Chicago this season.