Rinne, Predators shut out Blackhawks

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


CHICAGO -- Choose your adjective or phrase: deja vu, instant replay, rerun, or hockey's version of the movie Groundhog Day.
Any way you describe it, the Nashville Predators played virtually the same type of game on Sunday that they did the last time they met the Chicago Blackhawks, just nine days ago and also at the United Center.
And fortunately for the Predators and not so much for the Blackhawks, with the same outcome.
Center Mike Fisher and left winger Gabriel Borque scored goals to lead the Predators to a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks this time.
"They didn't get those second and third looks that sometimes they can," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of the Blackhawks. "I thought really our defense, especially (Shea) Weber, was an absolute monster out there today. He was worth every penny, watching him. To me, that was the best performance by a defenseman all year."
While the score was slightly different than the Preds' 3-2 win on March 14, Nashville's effort, play, determination and the outcome were all the same.
As a result, Nashville (31-31-10, 72 points) was able to cling to hope that it still might make the playoffs, even though the Predators are currently 12th in the Western Conference with 10 games remaining in the regular season.
Just like he did in the March 14 win, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (7-9-1) shined in net, stopping all 29 of Chicago's shots.
"It was a good bounce-back game for (Rinne, who had lost two of his last three starts)," Trotz said. "You saw tonight exactly what Pekka Rinne can do for you."
Added Rinne, "We seem to match up against them pretty well. We have to play defensive-style hockey against them. They have a lot of individuals who can change the momentum and the game, but that team always seems to get the best out of us."
As good as the Predators felt after beating the Blackhawks for the third time in four meetings this season, there was also bad news: star defenseman Seth Jones left the game at the end of the first period and did not return.
The team announced that he had suffered an upper-body injury, but there is no word yet on how severe and if he may potentially miss any upcoming games.
For whatever reason, the Blackhawks (41-16-15, 97 points) have had trouble with the Predators this season -- probably more trouble than they should when you consider Nashville is last in the Central Division and had lost six of its previous 10 games prior to Sunday's meeting.
Still, the facts are the facts and the final outcome is what it is.
"We want to keep getting those points and we left two on the table tonight," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "For whatever reason, we've had trouble against these guys. I can't pinpoint what it is."
Sunday's outing was a far cry from the Blackhawks' inspiring performances in their last two games, a 3-2 win over Carolina on Friday and a 4-0 shutout of the arch-rival St. Louis Blues last Wednesday.
"We had a good start and we had a couple of great looks at the net (but) missed the net, missed the opportunities there and they scored first," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "What happened after was exactly what happened the other day (against Nashville). They get the lead and they go into a check-fest and they check well."
Just like the last meeting nine days ago, the Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Fisher connected on his 18th goal of the season at 18:38 of the first period.
Nashville went ahead 2-0 on Chicago at 17:35 on Borque's seventh goal of the season.
Although Chicago outshot Nashville 20-11 through the first two periods, Nashville played an inspired game, almost as if it was still fighting for a playoff spot, a possibility that is dim at best.
Losing Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (28-13-10) stopped 15 of Nashville's 17 shots.
NOTES: There has been little word out of Chicago's camp since Friday's announcement that RW Patrick Kane will be out for at least the remainder of the regular season. The team is hopeful that Kane, who was placed on the Long Term Injured list, will be able to return for the first round of the playoffs, but that's an optimistic view at best, considering he has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and is on crutches. ... Chicago hosts Dallas on Tuesday before a three-game road trip to Boston (March 27), Ottawa (March 28) and Pittsburgh (March 30). The Blackhawks return to the United Center to host the Minnesota Wild on April 3. ... Chicago still leads the all-time series (45-33-4-8). ... What a difference a year makes: Even in last year's lockout-shortened season, the Blackhawks still managed to win all five meetings with the Predators. ... Chicago came into the game still leading the NHL in goals per game (3.31) and total goals (235). ... After scoring a goal and two assists Friday and becoming the sixth draftee in team history to surpass 200 points in his NHL career, Predators RW Patrick Hornqvist was given the night off. Other scratches were D Michael Del Zotto, RW Patrick Eaves and C Paul Gaustad. Chicago listed five scratches: D David Rundblad, D Michal Rozsival, and LWs Matt Carey, Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen. ... Attendance was 21,727.