James Neal, a Hat Trick & Victory over Chicago: Oh My!

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The Predators and Blackhawks have had a unique friendship since Nashville entered the league sixteen years ago and, with Nashville just one point ahead of Chicago from leading the Central Division, tonight was bound to lead to some indiscretions between the two. The Preds and Hawks have already met once this young season; last Saturday, to be exact. Nashville lost in OT to a short-handed goal from Jonathan Toews, but because it was pushed into overtime, Nashville left with the point Chicago didn’t intend to share. Fast-forward to tonight, where the kind folks of Music City welcome in the ever-so-pleasant beings of the Windy City. Here are the highlights:

First Period:
– Chicago struck first at 12:21 with wrister from Ben Smith for his first goal of the season.
– However, James Neal would retaliate at 19:12 with a clean snap shot for his fifth goal of the season. Seth Jones (3) and Mike Ribeiro (3) would notch the assists.

Second Period:
– James Neal would produce a second goal with another nasty snap shot at 16:12 for his sixth goal of the season. Filip Forsberg (5) would pick up the lone assist

Third Period:
– Just 1:52 into the third, Neal would collect his first natural Hat Trick as a Nashville Predator. Ryan Ellis (4) and Filip Forsberg (6) would collect the assists.
mL3G1R– Andrew Shaw would collect a rather interesting tip-in at 12:36, putting Chicago within one of Nashville.- Chicago would pull Raanta at just under 1:30, but it wouldn’t be enough as Nashville sealed the deal 3-2 in regulation to send the Hawks flocking back to Chicago.

Talk about playing under pressure and completely owning it. THAT’S the Pesky Preds we know and expect to see! And how ’bout these apples: The Nashville Predators are now the only team in the NHL that remains undefeated in regulation. Soak that in for a long moment, Preds fans; you deserve it. Nashville is now 5-0-2 and takes that momentum into Saturday when Patric Hornqvist & the Pittsburgh Penguins pop into town. It’s also James Neal bobble-head night; you want that.

Predators Out-Play Blackhawks 7-2

Image Courtesy: Getty Images

Back-to-back games are rough on any team and after coming off a 17-day road trip, Nashville was no exception. But after losing 4-1 to Pittsburgh and turning right around to take on the 13-2-4 Chicago Blackhawks? But let us not forget the Predators way: When they should win, they lose; When they should lose, they win. Totally makes for great blood pressure, truly. Let’s jump to the highlights:

First Period:

  • Similar to last night, Nashville struck first with a wrister from Matt Cullen at 7:28, his third goal of the season. Craig Smith (6th assist) and Seth Jones (6th assist) would collect the assists.
  • Nick Spaling would put the Predators up 2-0 at 8:25 with wrister of his own for his second goal of the season. Craig Smith would notch his second assist of the game (7th overall) and Ryan Ellis would pick up an assist, too (4th overall).
  • Nashville would outshoot Chicago 10 to 7, with NHL rookie Marek Mazanec stepping up his game from last night’s punishment.

Second Period:

  • The Predators kept the momentum into the second with a Power Play tip-in goal from Patric Hornqvist (6th goal) at 9:02. Roman Josi, who was first awarded the goal, picked up his 2nd assist overall along with Shea Weber (5th overall).
  • Craig Smith (4th goal) would give Nashville a substantial 4-0 lead at 18:18 with a backhander past Corey Crawford. Matt Cullen (3rd assist) would pick up the assist.
  • Chicago would finally get on the board at 18:44 with a wrister from Patrick Kane, his 11th goal of the season.
  • Nashville would keep the Blackhawks at bay with a 4-1 at the end of the 2nd period, though this time, Chicago outshoot the Predators 18 to 13.
  • Kudos to Mazanec for blocking 17 of 18 shots during the second period, especially after being pulled after the same period the night before. Amazing what a game at home can do… even if there is way too many mustard jerseys filling said seats.

Third Period:

  • Chicago would embrace the second intermission and come out swinging in the third, collecting their second goal at just 6:14 into the second period. Brandon Pirri collected his 5th goal of the season on Chicago’s goal.
  • Viktor Stalberg would give his old team a big middle finger just fifteen seconds later with a backhander past Crawford for his second goal of the season. Gabriel Bourque (3rd assist) and David Legwand (12th assists) would help collect Nashville’s fifth goal of the night.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQHUu3XNfMw
  • At 12:19, Mike Fisher would pick up his third goal of the season with an assist from Patric Hornqvist (7th assist), putting the home team up 6-2.
  • And, at 14:07, Captain Shea Weber sealed the deal with his signature slapshot to put Nashville up 7-2. Roman Josi (3rd assist) and David Legwand (13th assist) setup Weber’s 5th goal of the season.
  • Chicago would put the extra pressure on Mazanec in the third period, outshooting Nashville a cool 16 to 7. Again, another shout out to the NHL rookie for blocking 15 of 16 shots on goal. He took a pounding, nonetheless.
  • Marek Mazanec, after being pulled after the second period the night before, collected his first NHL win tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The final shot totals: Chicago 41, Nashville 30. So, doing the easy math, Mazanec blocked 39 of 41 shots on goal. Pretty spectacular for a rookie, eh?

Again, the Nashville Predators just have this uncanny way of defeating teams that just aren’t on the radar. Never, never count out the pesky Preds, my friends. Even after the whole ticket debacle, the Bridgestone Arena was still overrun with those awful red jerseys, which was not unexpected; we pissed them off. Maybe with this win, Chicago fans will have some respect when visiting Nashville and maybe, just maybe, take them down a peg or two. Did I personally hear the whole “two Cups in three years” line tonight? Yes, yes I did. As they say, “Scoreboard, son”.