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Predators Take Blackhawks Down (in OT)

Since tonight's tilt with Chicago wasn't carried on local cable (thank you, DirecTV Center Ice for the Chicago feed), here's the condensed recap:

1st Period:
Once against Barry Trotz sent out the Ortmeyer/Bonk/Smithson line to start a game, and they dominated the first minute of play by keeping the puck in the Blackhawk end, eventually drawing a penalty and giving Nashville and early power play. The Chicago penalty kill has been top-notch on the road, and the Predators barely mounted any threat.

For most of the period, however, Nashville kept the pressure on during 5-on-5 action, and a rather odd setup gave the Predators a 1-0 lead. Marek Zidlicky carried down the right side but fell down under pressure, and from his belly, sent a centering pass that deflected right to Jason Arnott who was coasting into the slot where he time to pick his spot on a nice wrister and beat Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Even though the period ended with 8 shots for each team, the Predators got the better chances and seemed to have the advantage over a Chicago team that had been beaten the night before in Columbus.

2nd Period:
So much for that theory! The Blackhawks came out and took charge in the second, potting three goals to seemingly derail the Nashville express; Jonathan Toews broke in off the left boards and lifted a nice wrist shot over Chris Mason, James Wisniewski scored on a point-shot tip-in through a crowd in front, and Patrick Sharp slammed home a centering pass from Duncan Keith (Ryan Suter left Sharp in front to try and block the pass, but nobody got back in time to bail him out).

3rd Period:
For a few minutes, the Blackhawks held as the Predators began carrying the majority of play, but they finally broke through with three straight goals of their own. Alexander Radulov fired home a wrister off a centering pass from Vern Fiddler as he waited in the high slot, Fiddler tipped home a pass by David Legwand off his left skate (it was reviewed, and ruled a valid goal, not a kick), and Radek Bonk completed the comeback by storming the crease and slamming home a nifty feed from Radulov as he came out from behind the net. The score was 4-3 Nashville with just over three minutes left, and the crowd seemed primed to celebrate the Predators' first comeback win of the year.

Justin Williams delayed that party, however, with a power play goal in the final minute, tying things up 4-4 and sending the game to overtime. He one-timed a cross-ice pass and beat Mason cleanly. One thing you can say about these Blackhawks is that they should have a pretty wicked power play to contend with. They move the puck crisply and are ready to shoot first, and ask questions later.

Overtime:
I'll keep it short, since it only lasted 19 seconds. Bonk centered to Erat who was crashing the net, and the puck actually floated into the net off of one of the Chicago defensemen.

A brief review followed, but the Preds skated off with a 5-4 overtime victory, and pushed their recent record to 8-1-1, good enough to take them from the Central Division basement to a three-way tie for second with Chicago and Columbus. The St. Louis Blues lie five points back, but they've played fewer games than the rest of the division, and come to Nashville Saturday night after facing the Blue Jackets Friday night at home.

The three stars were Radulov (1G, 1A), Erat (GW goal, 1A), and Bonk (1G, 1A). Chris Mason looked pretty good in net, stopping 27 of 31 shots.

All in all, Predators fans couldn't be happier with how the tide has turned since late October. The team has weathered the storm of that awful six-game losing streak, and should welcome #1 defenseman Shea Weber back to the lineup this weekend (he finally returned to practice yesterday). To make temporary room, Kevin Klein has been sent down to Milwaukee for a two-week conditioning stint after having been scratched from recent contests.

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