Predators 2, Blackhawks 1, SO
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Nashville Predators finally know what it feels like to clinch a playoff berth by themselves.
Paul Kariya scored in the second round of a shootout, and the Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Saturday night to cinch the franchise’s second straight playoff berth. This one, they did themselves after last clinching when Vancouver beat Edmonton at the end of last season.
“Not relying on someone else to do it is the most satisfying part I think,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We just got it done ourselves tonight.”
The Predators had lost six of their last eight before their matchup with Chicago. It looked like they would have to hope Calgary beat Vancouver later Saturday to cinch that berth as Blackhawks goalie Craig Anderson protected a 1-0 lead for the first 56 minutes.
But Mark Eaton finally tied it with 3:58 left in regulation with a one-timer near the blue line through traffic that went beat Anderson over his glove.
Duncan Keith gave the Predators a chance to avoid overtime when he drew a double minor for high sticking Jerred Smithson with 1:37 to go but the Predators couldn’t convert. Nashville outshot Chicago 43-24 in regulation and overtime.
“Anderson stood on his head tonight,” Trotz said.
The Predators improved to 6-3 in shootouts as goalie Chris Mason, making his fourth straight start in place of Tomas Vokoun, stopped Matthew Barnaby with a pad save and then gloved a shot by Patrick Sharp.
Mason said it was cool but tough to be in goal for his eighth victory this season.
“We had Tomas here all year, and … basically a lot of nights he singlehandedly won us hockey games and he put us in position to get where we are. I’m happy to be it. But I’m helping finishing what he did all year kind of thing,” Mason said.
Martin Erat scored on the first try for Nashville, bouncing the puck off Anderson before it trickled over the line. Kariya, who now has five goals in seven shootout attempts, won the game by beating the goalie to the glove side.
He headed to the locker room instead of celebrating with his teammates on the ice. He said he wasn’t thinking of clinching a playoff spot.
“No, just trying to make a good shot, concentrate on what the goalie was doing,” Kariya said.
The Blackhawks dropped their 27th one-goal game this season.
“Seen a lot of those,” Chicago coach Trent Yawney said.
Chicago’s James Wisniewski scored his second goal this season at 2:20 of the first period.
Nashville has won six of its last eight games against its Central Division rival, and got some revenge for a 4-3 loss in Chicago on Wednesday night. The Predators now have 98 points and a four-point lead over Anaheim for fourth-place in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage.
“Our job is far from over,” Eaton said. “The last season, we were just happy to get in. Now we still have four games ahead of us. Our goal is home-ice, so a lot of work to be done. Anaheim’s not losing, so if we have to win out, that’s good for us.”
Chicago now has lost six straight in Nashville and four of its last five overall.
“We got a lot of young guys, a lot of guys that are playing for jobs,” Anderson said.
The Predators had a moment of silence before the opening faceoff for the 36 Tennesseans killed by tornadoes within the past six days, including 12 on Friday near Nashville. … Nashville has not allowed a power-play goal in four straight games, going 22-of-22. … Vokoun remains day-to-day with a sore back. Second-leading scorer Steve Sullivan missed his fifth game with a groin injury.