Kunin, Jarnkrok lead Predators to 5-2 win over Blackhawks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two good minutes for the Nashville Predators were two very bad ones for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Luke Kunin and Calle Jarnkrok each scored a goal and added an assist to lead Nashville over Chicago 5-2 on Monday night.
Matt Duchene, Mattias Ekholm and Tanner Jeannot also scored and Mikael Granlund had two assists for the Predators, who snapped a two-game skid.
“I thought everyone up and down the lineup, we just played more to our identity tonight,” Kunin said. “That’s getting in on the forecheck, playing hard, physical and getting to the net. We had a lot of looks.”
Alex DeBrincat and David Kampf scored for Chicago, which has lost two of three.
“I think for a lot of the game, we were very good,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Ultimately, the mistakes that we made were tough to recover from. It’s just tough to come back when you put yourself in a hole.”
Nashville has won all six meetings between the teams so far this season as they battle for fourth place in the Central Division. Dallas, which defeated Detroit in a shootout Monday, also is involved in a tight three-way race for the division’s final playoff spot.
Duchene scored the game’s first goal at 6:22 of the opening period.
From above the left faceoff circle, Matt Benning threw the puck toward the slot, where it first tipped off Erik Haula’s stick and then Duchene’s before getting by Chicago goaltender Kevin Lankinen low to the glove side just inside the post.
“I think we’re one of the better teams in the league in offensive zone time, of getting there and possessing the puck and being in the offensive zone,” Nashville coach John Hynes said.
Haula’s assist was the 100th of his NHL career.
DeBrincat tied it at 15:14 of the first.
With Chicago on a power play, Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros stopped Patrick Kane’s shot from the right side. The rebound landed on the stick of Pius Suter, who was standing just outside the crease, where he slid a quick backhand pass to DeBrincat on the left side and he beat Saros with a one-timer on the short side.
DeBrincat has at least one point in five straight games. His 23 goals on the season lead the Blackhawks.
Saros finished with 30 saves.
Nashville opened the second with a couple of quick goals 51 seconds apart. Jarnkrok struck at 4:48 off a nice pass from Granlund from behind the Chicago net. Ekholm followed at 5:39 with a wrist shot from the left circle on a partial breakaway.
“We’ve been playing together quite a bit here, so it’s a lot of fun to play,” Granlund said of playing with Jarnkrok. “He’s a really responsible player. He’s a really smart player. There’s a lot of trust out there.”
Kampf brought the Blackhawks within a goal at 11:52 of the second when he found a loose puck in the slot and rifled it by Saros for his first goal of the season.
But then Jeannot and Kunin scored 18 seconds apart in the first minute of the third to break the game open for Nashville. Kunin’s goal spelled the end of the night for Lankinen, who was replaced by Malcolm Subban after stopping 17 of the 22 shots he faced.
“We had a few breakdowns. Two minutes of poor hockey and they score four goals. We’ve got to be better,” DeBrincat said.
Subban made eight saves in relief.
DUCHENE BACK ON THE BOARD
Duchene’s goal was his first since Feb. 11. Duchene played his second game since returning to the Nashville lineup after missing 21 games with a lower-body injury.
Blackhawks forward Brandon Hagel missed the game after being placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list due to pending test results.
Hagel has six goals and 10 assists in 42 games played this season.
Adam Gaudette made his Blackhawks debut after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade last Monday. Gaudette picked up an assist on Kampf’s second-period goal.
“We felt he was close to ready, but obviously with (Hagel) not being available, he got the chance,” Colliton said. “I thought he got better as the game went on. Definitely the last two periods, he had some good shifts, had some chances, made some plays, and obviously that line got a goal for us. Good for him to get into the group and I thought he was solid.”
Jarnkrok played his 500th career game — all with Nashville. He scored his 12th goal of the season, which leads the Predators.
The teams head to Chicago to play Wednesday and Friday. Those two games will conclude their season series.
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By JIM DIAMOND