CHICAGO – Patrick Kane said his last-minute goal came on “one of those close-your-eyes-and-shoot plays.” John Madden called his second goal “lucky.” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said his team was fortunate to win after a “crazy” third period.
Well, for a lucky team, the Blackhawks sure do win a lot.
Kane’s second goal of the game with 43.4 seconds to play lifted the Blackhawks to a 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators, giving them the best record in the NHL.
“We’ve had some amazing games, some spectacular endings, and tonight was one of them,” Quenneville said. “It’s all about finding a way to win. You win in different ways. I don’t recall giving up a two-goal lead late, and finding a way to circumvent it was pretty impressive.”
The Blackhawks (26-9-3), who beat Nashville on consecutive nights to open an eight-point lead in the Central Division over the second-place Predators, trailed 2-1 entering the final period. Chicago eventually went ahead 4-2 and let Nashville tie it late before finally winning on Kane’s team-high 15th goal.
The 21-year-old Kane scored the winner in each of Chicago’s last three games – the first time that’s happened since Murray Craven did it in 1995. Dan Ellis stopped Kane’s shot from the right circle but Troy Brouwer got to the rebound and flipped the puck back to Kane, who wristed a shot over Ellis.
“I fired it on net and it kind of hit the top shelf. It was one of those close-your-eyes-and-shoot plays … but it went in,” said Kane, who played his 200th career game. “We got four points (this weekend) and they got none. So it’s almost like an eight-point weekend for us, and we put some distance between us and them.”
The teams won’t meet again in the regular season. Chicago won the season series 4-2.
“These were two huge games coming off Christmas break,” Ellis said. “Everyone was pretty well-rested. When you have opportunities against a division rival, you want to make sure you win those. We had a chance … and we lost it.”
The Blackhawks have won seven of their last eight games and their 55 points are the most they’ve had after 38 games since the 1982-83 team had 56 – back when games that were tied after regulation did not go into overtime.
The Predators have suffered three straight losses after a 19-5-2 stretch had pulled them close to Chicago. They had been 13-0 when leading after two periods.
Madden’s goals came 5:32 apart and gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead with 7:48 to go. It was his first two-goal game since Chicago signed the 36-year-old centre to provide leadership to one of the league’s youngest teams. His teammates have nicknamed him “Master Yoda.”
“The youth in the room has made me feel young again,” he said. “At first it was a little intimidating because I wasn’t getting the jokes. I get them now. It’s been fun.”
After Brian Campbell beat Ellis on a power play, “it looked like we were in a pretty good spot,” Quenneville said. “But it changed quickly.”
Defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Cody Franson beat Antti Niemi on shots from the point in a 57-second span to make it 4-4 with 3:25 remaining before Kane finished off the Predators.
“It was 4-2 and we could have been dead in the water, but we didn’t back off,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We stayed persistent on the puck and we got it back. I give our guys a lot of credit, down 4-2 with seven minutes to go against a very good Chicago team that plays so well defensively.”
Nashville’s Marcel Goc scored 1:35 into the game, deflecting Franson’s shot past Niemi. Kane tied it at 6:55 by scoring on his own rebound. Martin Erat’s rebound goal 47 seconds into the second period put the Predators ahead 2-1. It was his team-high 14th of the season and ninth in the last 12 games.
Notes: The Blackhawks killed both Nashville power plays and haven’t allowed a man-advantage goal at home since San Jose scored on Nov. 15. … The Predators have allowed at least one power-play goal in seven straight games. … Nashville has scored in 19 of its last 23 regulation periods. … The Blackhawks are 7-0-2 in the second game of back-to-backs versus 3-5-1 in the first game.