NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Nashville Predators didn’t panic after slipping to ninth place and out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
They just relaxed.
David Legwand had a goal and two assists with Vladimir Orszagh and Martin Erat each adding a goal and an assist, and the Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Tuesday night to keep alive their bid for the franchise’s first playoff berth.
The victory pushed Nashville to 87 points and back into the eighth spot in the Western Conference after Edmonton’s 1-0 loss to St. Louis. Edmonton also has 87 points, but the Predators have 36 victories with three games left compared to 35 wins and two games to go for Edmonton.
“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Nashville forward Scott Walker, who also scored a goal. “But it’s an emotional roller coaster you go through wondering if you’re going to make it.
“It’s been emotional. But we obviously take care of ourselves, and we’ll be fine.”
Adam Hall added a goal each for Nashville.
Tuomo Ruutu scored both goals for Chicago, winless in six games.
The Predators snapped their own five-game winless skid at home with their first victory here since beating the New York Rangers 2-1 on Feb. 28. And they did it with a dominating performance in their first game after slipping to ninth place after an Edmonton victory Sunday.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said the Predators talked Tuesday morning about how to deal with the pressure of this playoff race by forgetting about everyone but themselves.
“We’ve put a lot of internal pressure on ourselves to do what we set out to—to try to make the playoffs,” Trotz said. “We want to do it for the fans. We want to do it for each other, for upstairs, for (owner) Craig Leipold, for everybody.
“We said, `Let’s just play. Have fun. You’ve got to live this time.’ “
Nashville took the first seven shots of the game and led 2-0 as Orszagh scored on a one-timer 35 seconds into the game off an assist from Erat who then got his 16th at 6:16 past a sprawling Jocelyn Thibault.
The Predators blew a 2-0 lead in losing in overtime 3-2 to Columbus on Saturday. They didn’t let that happen against Chicago as they beat the Blackhawks for the first time this season after going 0-3-1-0 in this series.
By the time Ruutu scored Chicago’s only goal at 18:48 of the second on a power play, that cut Nashville’s lead to 4-1. Ruutu added his second in the final seconds of the game.
The Blackhawks can’t wait for Thursday night when Nashville visits for the final game between the teams this season. They got only two power-play opportunities compared to seven for the Predators.
“I’m looking forward to Thursday,” Chicago coach Brian Sutter said. “You can write it.”
Legwand, recently demoted from the first line for lack of production, scored his 17th at 11:58 of the second when he skated into the slot and put back a rebound of Erat’s shot from near the blue line for a 3-0 lead. Orszagh helped make it 4-0 when he grabbed the puck near mid-ice, skated up the left boards and passed to Hall from the left circle, and Hall easily beat Thibault.
Nashville outshot the Blackhawks 35-26. But the Predators didn’t solve all their offensive problems as they went 0-for-7 on the power play and now arejust 1-for-36 with the man advantage in the past seven games.
Orszagh’s goal was the 50th of his NHL career. … Nashville forward Andreas Johansson skated in his 100th game with Nashville. … Nashville defenseman Brad Bombardir and forward Sergei Zholtok, two of the Predators’ trade pickups before the deadline, were healthy scratches. … Chicago center Tyler Arnason had an assist, giving him seven points (five goals, two assists) in the past six games. … Nashville forward Steve Sullivan, acquired from Chicago on Feb. 16, snapped a three-game point streak in which he had fiveassists. … Chicago is 0-26-0-6 when allowing four or more goals.