NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Chicago Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been their Achilles’ heel more than a few times this season. Who would’ve guessed it would be a source of momentum on Tuesday night.
Patrick Kane scored another highlight-reel goal on the power play, and the Blackhawks had a critical three-minute kill in the second period en route to their 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks have won two in a row and five of their last six.
Antti Raanta stopped 27 of 28 shots to improve to 7-1-1 on the season. Duncan Keith had a goal and an assist, and now leads all NHL defensemen with 32 points.
[WATCH: Quenneville happy with contributions in Blackhawks' win over Preds]
On a night they got Bryan Bickell back after a month-long injury, the Blackhawks were finding answers on both sides of their special teams. The power play continued to sizzle, with the Blackhawks scoring twice on it via Kane and Nick Leddy; they’ve now scored at least one power-play goal in each of their past 10 games.
“I think we have two really good (power-play) units. If one unit doesn’t score the other one’s able to get a goal,” Keith said. “I think we’ve had the same (units) all season, so we have that chemistry with one another with a lot of skill. We’re moving the puck around and just getting shots. We’ve been able to score some timely goals.”
But the penalty kill proved equally vital, especially when they nixed three minutes worth of a Patrick Sharp high-sticking double minor. The Blackhawks went 6 of 7 on the kill, with a Shea Weber blast the only one getting through.
“We didn’t get setups or let them do what they wanted to do,” coach Joel Quenneville said of that kill. “We had a couple after that as well. It’s not the type of game where we take seven penalties — I don’t think we’ve had a game with seven all year. You win those types of games, you have to give some credit to the PK as well. But that three-minute one, we didn’t give them momentum.”
[VIDEO: Nick Leddy recaps Tuesday's goal in Nashville]
The Blackhawks got the cushion they needed on their power play, as Kane’s goal proved to be the game-winner. It was the 10th consecutive game Kane recorded a point and this one was with style: a slick backhand that found the small gap between the crossbar and Carter Hutton’s glove-side shoulder.
“I don’t think he saw (that space) with his eyes, I think he just knows it’s there,” Patrick Sharp said of Kane. “He’s equally as dangerous on his backhand as his forehand. I kind of knew he’d make that play. There are only a few guys in the world can do that.”
Kane said “it was one of those plays where you get the puck and you see what your options are. I wasn’t looking at the spot, per se, but it’s one of those shots you try to get up as quickly as you can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it feels good when it does.”
The Blackhawks are feeling good about a lot of things right now, from their all-around game to the power play and, on some nights, even that penalty kill. It’s been a busy stretch of hockey but also a successful one. And on Tuesday, the Blackhawks’ special teams were just that.
“I liked our game, the attention to detail, we were very business-like,” Quenneville said. “I liked the contribution from everybody.”