Blackhawks, Preds finish home-and-home in Chicago
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So how long could the Nashville Predators enjoy their season-opening 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night?
"We'll take the next hour or so to enjoy ourselves and then get back to work," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "There's 81 more."
The next one is Saturday night, against the same Chicago team they edged. It's in the United Center and since the Blackhawks are 0-2-0 for the first time in six seasons, they are a good bet to come out of the gate flying.
Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban, veteran of exactly one game in this Central Division rivalry, knows the Predators will have to up their level of play if they are going to score a sweep of the home-and-home series.
"We've got to be prepared to do it again tomorrow," he said. "That's a great hockey team over there; it felt like a playoff game. They're going back to their barn tomorrow and they lost their home opener, so they're going to be ticked. If we were good tonight, we'll have to be a lot better tomorrow."
In his first game with the Predators, Subban, who was acquired from Montreal for team captain Shea Weber on June 29, made an intriguing opening impression. He scored on his first shot, tried a team-high six shots in 23:04 of ice time and blocked three shots while showing a willingness to mix it up with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
While Subban may not have the 108 mph slapper or crushing bodychecks of Weber, he certainly appears to have added the elements Nashville was hoping for when it made the trade.
"He's certainly one of those players that you certainly have to be aware of offensively," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Subban. "You want to make him play in his own end, much like most defensemen."
Chicago's main goal in the rematch might be to stay out of the penalty box. After yielding three power-play markers Wednesday night in a 5-2 loss to St. Louis, it ceded three more Friday night.
Every Nashville tally came off the same assembly line -- pass to the point for a blast by Subban or Roman Josi that beats Corey Crawford, the last one tipped by Mike Fisher for the tie-breaker late in the second period.
"It takes a lot of energy out of your game," Toews said of the constant penalty-killing. "So we just have to smarten up and find ways to stay out of the box."
The Blackhawks might have played their best period of the young season in the third Friday night, putting 13 shots on net to the Predators' seven and exerting steady pressure over the last five minutes.
But Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stopped all 13 shots, stoning Kane at the right goal post with 3 1/2 minutes remaining and then making four saves over the final 1:46 as Chicago emptied the net after Subban was whistled for interference to give it a 6-on-4.
"I thought he was the best player on the ice," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. "He was just outstanding."