CHICAGO – Cristobal Huet earned his first shutout of the season – and a measure of redemption.
Huet made 27 saves, and Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd scored on rebounds 56 seconds apart in the second period to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Huet wasn’t heavily tested in his 21st career shutout, but was sharp throughout the game. He made several close-in saves during Nashville’s best offensive flurries, late in the second period and during power plays in the third.
Huet had been shaky in two of his previous six starts and outstanding in only one, a 4-3 nine-round shootout win over Colorado in Chicago’s home opener Oct. 10. He entered the game with a 3.25 goals-against average and anemic .844 save percentage.
And the Blackhawks’ top goalie was showered with boos at the United Center in his last start, a 4-3 loss to Dallas last Saturday, when he allowed a couple of soft goals. Five days earlier, he gave up three goals on the first five shots to Calgary and was pulled.
“I think it was good for me to regroup myself a little bit,” Huet said. “I think I was more aggressive, more desperate. I saw the puck pretty well. I have to keep doing that the rest of the season.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville liked the way his No. 1 goalie in the second year of a US$22.5 million, four-year contract bounced back.
“I think it was great for him in lot of ways,” Quenneville said. “He got challenged in different ways the last week or two. In a game like tonight, he gets back in there with a great response for him and our team.”
Nashville, 1-6-1 in its last eight, has scored just 18 goals in 10 games this season and was shut out for the third time. Predators goalie Dan Ellis kept the game close with 32 saves.
“We knew (Huet) might be a little bit nervous about this one and wanted to get on him, but we couldn’t get one by him.” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We need one to sort of build on and we didn’t get the one.”
Before snapping an 0-5-1 slump with a 6-5 overtime win at Ottawa on Thursday night, the Predators had just 12 goals in their first eight games.
Nashville’s J.P. Dumont, who had a career-high five points in the win over the Senators, had one of the best close-in chances against Huet, late in the third.
“We’re 10 games into the season and we’ve put ourselves in trouble,” Dumont said. “We can score. We just have to play with confidence.”
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and defenceman Brent Seabrook missed the game and are out day-to-day with what Quenneville called “upper-body injuries.” Both players are believed to have concussion-like symptoms, sustained while absorbing hits in the third period of a 3-2 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night.
“They’re two big parts of our team,” Ladd said. “You can’t replace them, but you can try to fill the holes.”
Neither goalie was heavily tested in a scoreless, penalty-free first period as Chicago outshot Nashville 11-10.
Byfuglien opened the scoring at 7:20 of the second from the edge of the crease. He swatted in a loose puck after Ellis made a stick save on Patrick Kane’s soft shot from left boards.
Ladd made it 2-0 at 8:16, sweeping in the puck after Ellis had blocked Cam Barker’s drive from the top of the slot with his pad.
Ellis kept it at 2-0 when he stopped John Madden on a breakaway with 5:22 left in the second.
Huet made several tough saves late in the period as the Predators finally applied some pressure. Among them were a point-blank stop of Colin Wilson, then a block of Dave Scratchard’s rebound attempt with just over five minutes left.
About eight minutes into the third, Huet blocked close-in power-play chances by Francis Bouillon and Ryan Jones. Huet made a point-blank stop on Dumont with six minutes left.
NOTES: Seabrook had played in 223 consecutive games, the longest of any current Blackhawk and third-longest among NHL defencemen. … Chicago recalled C Jake Dowell from Rockford of the AHL on Saturday to fill Toews’ spot. … Toews missed 16 games with a knee injury as a rookie midway through 2007-08, and the Blackhawks were 5-9-2 during that span … Nashville C Jason Arnott missed his third game because of an arm injury. Predators D Dan Hamhuis sat out his fourth with an upper-body injury. RW Jordan Tootoo, who has yet to play this season, missed his 10th with a quadriceps injury.