The Chicago Blackhawks showed the hockey world why they are the best team in hockey at his time with a comeback 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators. Behind 2-1 at the end of two period, the Hawks rallied for four goals in the final period to overwhelm their closest division rival.
With the score tied, 4-4 and 43 seconds left in the game, Patrick Kane buried the game winner to give the Hawks the win, the sweep of the home and home, and an eight point lead over Nashville in the Central Division.
Patrick Kane had a three point night with two goals and an assist. John Madden had two goals and Brian Campbell added a goal and an assist. Jonathan Toews had three assists.
The Predators were led in scoring by Cody Franson with a goal and an assist while Dan Hamhuis, Marty Erat and Marcel Goc each had goals.
Antti Niemi improved his record as a rookie to 9-1-1 while stopping 16 of 20 Predator shots. Dan Ellis stopped 24 of 29 Blackhawk shots in the loss.
The Predators got on the board early at 1:35 in the first when Cody Franson fired a shot from the blue line that was tipped by Marcel Goc and found its way through Antti Niemi's five hole to give the Preds an early 1-0 lead.
At 4:40 Marty Erat was called for interference and the Preds successfully killed the Hawk man advantage. Unfortunately, shortly after time expired on the power play, the Predators left Patrick Kane unguarded to the right of Dan Ellis and he flipped a loose puck into the net to tie the game 1-1.
Wade Belak was called for charging and after about 30 seconds of delayed penalty man advantage, the Hawks officially went on the power play again at 11:16. Chicago got two shots on goal but were unable to convert.
The Predators got bonus power play time on a delay when Brent Sopel was called for slashing at 17:04. Predators struggled for possession and only got one shot, one from Franson at the blue line.
The period ended tied 1-1. The Predators appeared to have more jump than in last night's game but still appeared over matched by the Hawks. Both teams were credited with six shots.
The Predators started the second period quickly with a goal by Marty Erat 47 seconds in. The play started when Steve Sullivan was left open in the slot and Niemi challenged him but let a rebound loose that Erat was able to put in the open side of the net. Leaving two players unfronted is very atypical of this Blackhawk team.
In the next six minutes of play, the Hawks had a barrage of five great scoring chances but were stymied by a pipe and a four Dan Ellis saves.
The Predators had their second power play opportunity at 13:20 when Brent Seabrook was called for holding. The Predators never got a shot and were victimized by three Chicago takeaways to make for a very ugly man advantage for the Preds.
The Preds survived the final minutes of the period to maintain their 2-1 lead. The Hawks out shot the Preds 9-6 for the period.
The third period was probably one of the most important 20 minutes of the season thus far. Win or lose, the Predators would need to find out what type of team they wanted to become for the second half of the season.
Patrick Hornqvist was whistled for holding at 4:23. The Hawks got two shots but the Predators actually had the better scoring chance short-handed on a Sullivan to Legwand odd man breakaway that Niemi was able to stop.
The Predators had another great scoring chance shortly after the penalty kill but with four men on the rush they left John Madden wide open for an outlet pass that he took the length of the ice and deeked Ellis out of position to open up the net for an easy goal at 6:40.
Steve Sullivan put the Preds a man down again at 9:38 when he inadvertently caught Brent Seabrook in the face with his stick. The Preds held the Hawks shotless on the penalty kill.
In what appeared like deja vu from minutes earlier, the John Madden again scored at 12:12 on an outlet pass breakaway. The difference the second time was that Ryan Suter was able to deflect the puck to help tip it past Dan Ellis for the score to make it 3-2.
At 13:15 things spiraled further out of control when Dan Hamhuis tripped John Madden. Twelve seconds into the Hawk man advantage Brian Campbell let loose with a shot from the blue line that Dan Ellis never saw due to a complete screen by Troy Brower that Ryan Suter did nothing to prevent. I'm sure the 4-2 advantage was called "game, set, match" by Barry Trotz at the time.
The Predators were not finished and pulled within one when Dan Hamhuis nailed a shot from the blue line and Niemi was fully screened by Joel Ward to bring the Preds back with in a goal.
Even more surprising, fifty-seven seconds later, Cody Fransen fired a shot from the blue line that made its way through traffic to tie the game 4-4.
The Blackhawks did what they do best at 43 seconds left when they threw things into complete disarray around the Predator net and Patrick Kane picked up his own rebound and placed it in the net to seal the 5-4 Blackhawk win and the sweep of the two game series.
For the final period, the Blackhawks out shot the Preds 14-8 and controlled the tempo of play.
Storylines from the Game
Blackhawks Clearly The Best Team in The West...
By stopping the Predators on an off night on Saturday and then again when the Preds gave a much better effort on Sunday, the Hawks clearly established themselves as the most complete team in hockey. They have a multitude of weapons on offense, the league's best goals against average on defense, and a highly underrated goal-tending duo.
Predators Proved to Themselves That They Are a Contender...
After being berated by Barry Trotz for not being up for Saturday's game, the Preds played much better on the road and staged an unbelievable comeback to tie the Hawks after falling behind late. While they did not get a point out of Sunday's game, they did learn a little more about what they are capable of being. The two late goals will be something that they can point to later in the year as the reason to never give up in a game against lesser opponents.
It's Not Over 'Till It's Over...
The back and forth nature of the game was truly spectacular and will qualify for one of NHL Home Ice's "Games Gone Wild". The Hawks and Preds each scored two quick goals in the final eight minutes before Kane's game winner. Although it wasn't the outcome Pred's fans wanted, it was thrill-a-minute hockey.
The Predators head to St Louis where the Blues have strugged in home games, for a Tuesday night game before traveling on to Columbus for a New Year's Eve to end the three game road trip.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass