CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks became the first NHL team to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs on Sunday with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators.
Jonathan Toews scored the game-winner on a blast from the high slot with 9:28 remaining in the third period, 55 seconds after linemate Brandon Saad had scored on Pekka Rinne from the doorstep to tie the game. Patrick Kane had warded off a pair of Predators behind the net before feeding Toews the puck.
The Hawks (29-5-4) opened the season by scoring at least one point in their first 24 games, setting an NHL record for the start of a campaign. But they had gone 6-5-1 in their next dozen games, and dropped a shootout loss to St. Louis at the United Center on Thursday night.
Saturday's 1-0 victory at Nashville was won the way the Hawks played in the season's first half, and Sunday's win saw the Hawks come from down 3-2 in the final 13 minutes.
David Legwand scored from 10 feet in front of Chicago goaltender Ray Emery 6:54 into the third period, giving Nashville, which had tied the game twice, a 3-2 lead. He rebounded home Matt Halischuk's stuff attempt at the side of the net.
The Hawks, which dominated the first period, had opened the scoring with Andrew Shaw's slot tip of a Michal Frolik slapshot 6:34 into the game. Nashville tied it when Nick Spaling beat Emery on a rebound of Sergei Kostitsyn's drive after Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya lost the puck.
From that point the game was more even. Brian Bickell's wrist shot beat Rinne and gave the Hawks a 2-1 advantage 2:09 into the second, but Sean Weber replied for the Predators just under four minutes later, snapping a shot by Emery from 30 feet after Spaling beat Frolik cleanly on a faceoff.
Saad scored after fanning on his first shot and watching pinching defenseman Duncan Keith miss his shot as well. Saad's second try beat Rinne between the legs.
Kane added an empty-net goal for Chicago with 31.1 seconds to play.
Emery made 19 saves, the best a glove grab of a wicked drive from Kostitsyn with 4:02 left in the second period. Rinne made 35 saves.
The Predators (15-17-8) entered the game desperate for a win and two points. Twelfth in the Western Conference, they have only eight games remaining and trail eighth-place Detroit, the last playoff team at the moment, by five points with four teams to climb past.
NOTES: Spaling's multiple-point game broke an eight-game pointless streak and was only his second such game of the year (one goal, one assist vs. Minnesota on Jan. 22). ... Nashville's left wing Gabriel Bourque and center Paul Gaustad missed the game with upper-body injuries. Bourque was out for the fourth straight game since being crunched by the Blackhawks' Dan Carcillo on Monday. Gaustad missed his second game. Predators' center Colin Wilson, on injured reserve, was out for the 15th game in a row. The injuries prompted the emergency recall of forward Austin Watson from Milwaukee. He made his NHL debut in the first period. ... Nashville starts a four-game home stand against St. Louis on Tuesday, and plays five of its last eight games at home. ... Chicago's Dave Bolland was scratched with a lower-body injury for the second straight game. Patrick Sharp (right shoulder) missed his 14th straight contest, but is expected back this week, the first time the Hawks have put a timetable on his return. ... Chicago visits Minnesota on Tuesday, its last 10 games split equally between the United Center and the road.