Niklas Hjalmarsson’s contributions to the Chicago Blackhawks success are underrated, but you wouldn’t know that if the only clip you watched of Hjalmarsson all season was this dazzling goal by Nashville Predators winger James Neal.
With the Blackhawks visiting Nashville Thursday night, Neal didn’t waste any time getting himself on the evening’s highlight reel. Less than seven minutes into the opening frame, Neal took a pass as he was cutting through the neutral zone before batting the puck into the air, around Hjalmarsson and burying a quick shot five-hole on Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling. If it sounds like a quick, highly skilled move by Neal, that’s because it was. Take a look:
That Neal was able to score with such a slick move is one thing, but that he beat defensemen Duncan Keith and, immediately thereafter, Hjalmarsson is what makes it special. Getting by one happens, but burning both on the same play is rare.
Neal’s goal kicked off a three-goal first period for the Predators, which powered them to a 5-1 victory over the Blackhawks. Neal added a second tally in the third frame. It was revenge for Nashville, who dropped Tuesday’s game against Chicago 4-1, and an important two points: the Predators now sit one point ahead of the Blackhawks for third in the Central Division with each team having played 29 games this season.