The Chicago Blackhawks easily defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 at the United Center on Wednesday night in a game where the Predators found it difficult to compete at times.
The Hawks were led with two goals by Jack Skille, including one on the power play that proved to be the game winner. Chicago's other goals came from Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell. Bolland added an assist for a two point night and Duncan Keith added two assists.
The Predators lone goal came from Sergei Kostitsyn on a tip from Marty Erat late in the game.
Corey Crawford was the winner in net, stopping all but one of 25 Predator shots. Anders Lindback gave up four goals on 35 Chicago shots in his second unimpressive performance in a row.
The first period was a well played physical period by both teams. The Predators has a major lapse in their defensive zone that resulted in a Hawk goal at 12:29. Lindback tried to clear a puck that was intercepted by Bolland who skated it back in on Lindback who did not react well resulting in an easy goal to put the Hawks ahead 1-0.
Chicago out shot the Predators 13-9 in the opening period and also led the Corsi 18-16. The Predators struggled in the face off circle again, winning only 8 of 25 draws to open the game.
Things started deteriorating for the Predators in the second period when Ryan Suter was called for roughing at 7:41. On the resulting power play, Skille skated down the right side and was left wide open with the puck which he put past Lindback at 9:28 to put the Hawks ahead 2-0.
Almost immediately when play resumed, Shane O'Brien was called for interference to put the Hawks back on the power play. A minute later Joel Ward and Tomas Kopecky scuffled and were sent to the box with offsetting minors.
The Predators continued to struggle with possession and puck control for the remainder of the period and were unable to make any headway on man advantage at the end of the period after Bolland was called for hooking. The Preds managed three shots but did not score.
In the second period, the Preds were out shot 13-11 while the teams were even in the Corsi with 21 each. Faceoffs were improved with the Preds taking 14 of 24.
The third period was more of the same for the Predators. A turnover by Colin Wilson led to Skille's second goal of the night at 9:14 in the third to give the Hawks a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead. Barry Trotz would probably term the situation, "Game, Set, Match."
The Predators did come back at 11:13 when Marty Erat fired a shot at the net that was tipped in by Kostitsyn to pull within two, 3-1. Erat came close to a goal st 14:50 when he had an open net but couldn't lift the puck over Crawford's pads.
At 17:15 J. P. Dumont hit the pipe and the Hawks recovered the puck and Bickell took it the puck into the Preds zone and shot it over Lindback to seal the win and stop any chance of a Predator comeback.
The Preds were out shot 9-5 in the third period but led the Corsi 13-12 as Chicago slowed the pace and limited the Predators' chances.
The Predators lead the season series 2-1 after winning the first two meeting earlier this year. Chicago moved ahead of the Preds in the Western Conference race and now have 41 points and are in sixth place. The Preds now reside in seventh with 40.
Patric Hornqvist returned to the ice after missing three games with an upper body issue and had a team high six shots in 25 shifts so he appears to have recovered from his injury.
Wade Belak received the start in place of Jordin Tootoo and skated only eight shifts for a total of 4:39 of ice time.
The Predators immediately returned to Nashville after the game where they will face the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at the Bridgestone Arena.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass