NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators put away their road jerseys for the first time in more than two weeks and sent their fans home happy.
Cal O’Reilly scored the only goal in a shootout to give Nashville a 4-3 victory over the slumping Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
Nashville won its second consecutive game, both of which required extra time. Prior to Thursday night’s shootout victory in St. Louis, the Predators had lost five straight.
Due to the Country Music Awards being held at Bridgestone Arena earlier in the week, Nashville played its first home game in 15 days.
Chicago has dropped three in a row.
In the shootout, O’Reilly beat Chicago goalie Marty Turco with a wrist shot on Nashville’s first attempt.
All three Predators goals in regulation came from defencemen: Shane O’Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson.
“We try and chip in whenever we can, but it is just a good job by our forwards,” Franson said. “We don’t get the puck without them. It is a whole team thing.”
Jack Skille scored twice for Chicago and Viktor Stalberg had the other Blackhawks goal.
The Blackhawks made their first appearance in Nashville since closing out their Western Conference quarterfinal in six games last April.
Skille entered without a goal in 17 games this season, but ended that drought with less than a minute remaining in the opening period.
“I’ve said all season, once I get that first one, it will take the pressure off and hopefully I can keep that going,” Skille said. “Right now, I think team wins are the bigger issue, and we need to get back on the winning side of things.”
At 19:07 of the first, Brian Campbell stickhandled through traffic and found Skille in the slot, where he snapped a wrist shot by the glove of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne just inside the right post.
O’Brien and Weber scored goals less than three minutes apart in the second to give Nashville a brief 2-1 lead. Stalberg tied it 92 seconds after Weber’s power-play goal at 5:19.
Skille’s second of the game came at 9:10 of the second. Jake Dowell had the puck on the right side and slipped a pass to Skille in the slot. He carried the puck just inside the left faceoff circle and beat Rinne with a wrist shot high to the glove side.
“It’s very hard in this league when you are down,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “When you are chasing the game, trying to get it tied up, it is pretty taxing on your team mentally. But you talk about defining a backbone and finding ways to win, that’s what those moments are.”
Franson’s goal at 10:23 of the third tied it at three.
“We’ll have to go back and look at it, but we still can’t give up that third goal,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think there are some positive things and some things we need to talk about. We can’t lose momentum.”
Rinne is 13-5 in shootouts, including 2-0 this season. He made saves Saturday night on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before denying Patrick Sharp with a diving poke-check.
“I got really lucky,” Rinne said of Kane’s attempt. “I thought he was going to go to his backhand and he came back with a good move. I just threw my stick there and it bounced.”
Turco lost for the first time in three shootouts this season.
Notes: Skille, the seventh overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, had never scored more than once in a game in his first 47 NHL contests. … Nashville D Ryan Suter returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a lower-body injury. … Predators RW Martin Erat played after missing four games with back spasms. … Chicago LW Bryan Bickell has points in back-to-back games. … Turco is 12-6-3 in his career against Nashville.