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Five-goal third period gives Nashville a 7-5 win over Chicago in home finale


When the Chicago Blackhawks come to town, there’s always a special feel to the atmosphere it brings inside Bridgestone Arena. With Blackhawks fans storming the arena in droves, the Predators were able to finish their final home game of the regular season in exciting fashion. Coming from behind twice, Nashville notched five goals in the third period to hand the Blackhawks a 7-5 defeat in front of an over-capacity crowd at home and a national television audience.

Just the third time all season the Blackhawks have allowed seven goals, twice coming against the Predators, Chicago saw a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead both evaporate after beginning the game without five of their top players.

“It’s obviously a really good sign. There’s no quit in this locker room; a lot of character. We knew guys weren’t going to quit. It’s tough to be out of the postseason, but there is still a lot to play for,” said Predators defenseman Shea Weber.

Getting goals from Ben Smith and Marian Hossa in the first period, Chicago would hold the Predators to just one shot on net until the 12:57 mark of the period. Hossa’s goal, his 30th of the season, would be his final appearance on the ice that night as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville would pull the winger for the rest of the game.

“It was a perfect ending for him. He had a nice year for us. We talked about it this morning, and I asked him this morning if he wanted to play tonight to get the chance to score 30 goals. I said “Well, if you do score early, I’m going to pull you,” and that’s what happened,” said Quenneville.

Just 14 seconds after Hossa’s goal, Craig Smith rifled a shot past Raanta off a Gaustad faceoff win to the left of the Blackhawks goaltender, cutting Chicago’s lead down to 2-1.

Ryan Ellis would knot the game at two 6:32 into the second period off a Mike Fisher centering pass. With his fifth goal of the season, Ellis stretched his career-best totals to five goals and 20 assists, over double of his previous career-high of 11 points in the 2011-2012 campaign.

Nearly seven minutes later, Matt Carey would score his first career NHL goal, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead they would hold for the remainder of the period.

“It felt good, but right now it doesn’t feel too good. I haven’t scored in the past four games, so it’s nice to get the monkey off my back. It felt good, but right now a win is more important than a goal,” said Blackhawks forward Matt Carey.

Nashville and Chicago would exchange goals over a four-minute span early in the third period. Matt Cullen and Colin Wilson would score three minutes apart for the Predators and Jeremy Morin would tie the game at four with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

That’s when things took a very interesting turn for both teams.

With 2:55 left in regulation, Nashville would grab a 5-4 lead off of a Paul Gaustad shot just feet from Raanta. Chicago forward Andrew Shaw would score his 20th goal of the season just 1:20 later, making it a 5-5 game with 1:35 left to go in regulation.

“We dug ourselves a hole, dug ourselves out, got back in, back out, took the lead, and gave it back. The year in some ways was very challenging, especially in the first half of the year. We learned resilience; we learned that competitive element that is in sports,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “You just have to keep competing, and you get yourself back, which is sometimes hard to learn. There is a gene in all of us as individuals that will push you to the next level and become really special.”

Nashville would take the lead for the final time 36 seconds later, as Patric Hornqvist would tip a shot past Raanta, giving the Predators a 6-5 lead. Shea Weber would add in a near-200 foot empty net goal with 14 seconds left in regulation.

“I think the guys wish the season was a couple of weeks longer, but it’s better late than never. If we’d never gotten to this point, we wouldn’t know what we have or where we’re going,” said Trotz. “I think it gives clarity to everyone and more importantly, to our fans. They pay the bills. They want to see more wins at home. I think the guys wanted to win these last few for the fans.”