Ward makes 30 saves as Blackhawks beat Predators 2-1
By JAY COHEN
He went back to work.
Ward made 30 saves Tuesday night, leading the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.
"I thought our guys competed, worked hard all 60 minutes," Ward said. "Defensively, we didn't give them a whole lot. It's a credit to the guys for the way that they played. We kept it much more simple and executed."
Defensemen Gustav Forsling and Erik Gustafsson scored for last-place Chicago, which had dropped 10 of 11. Patrick Kane picked up an assist on Gustafsson's tiebreaking goal in the second period, giving him at least one point in seven of his last eight games.
Ward was terrific in the Blackhawks' first game since Crawford was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a concussion for the second straight season. The two-time All-Star got hurt in the first period of Sunday's 7-3 loss to San Jose when the back of his head struck the right post during a scary goalmouth pileup.
"We want to continue to grow as a team with him on our minds, play for one another," Ward said. "He's not going to be forgotten. And I'm not Crawford out there. I'm just going to try to give this team a chance to win every time I get the opportunity."
"We came out in the third and tried to press and win it and get it done, but we're in position right now on the road, I think you need to play a consistent 60 minutes," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Some of it was OK tonight and some of it was not."
Coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa on Monday night, Nashville jumped in front late in the first period. Kane turned the puck over near the blue line and Fiala beat Ward with a well-placed wrist shot on the goaltender's stick side.
Chicago bounced back nicely in the second, outshooting Nashville 16-7 in one of its best periods in a while. Rinne made solid stops on Dominik Kahun, David Kampf and Kane before the Blackhawks went ahead to stay with a pair of goals 1:54 apart.
"They had a ton of chances and Pekks stood on his head for a lot of that (second) period," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "It seemed like we just couldn't get anything going. It's disappointing."
Forsling tied it at 1 with a shot off the left post at 15:22. It was the second goal of the season for Forsling, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with a shoulder injury.
After Predators forward Rocco Grimaldi was sent off for tripping Brent Seabrook, Gustafsson beat Rinne with a long slap shot for his seventh goal at 17:16. It was just the 13th power-play goal for the league's worst team with the man advantage.
Gustafsson's shot went off Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis.
"I'm just trying to put the puck to the net," Gustafsson said. "I don't know if it went off their D or something like that. I'm just trying to shoot it. Nice to see it go in."
The Blackhawks lost forward Marcus Kruger with 3:29 left in the period when he got hit in the face by an inadvertent elbow from Nashville's Ryan Hartman. Coach Jeremy Colliton said Kruger sustained a concussion and will not travel on the team's upcoming road trip.
NOTES: Nashville dropped to 17-2-0 this season when it scores the first goal. ... Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov also returned to the lineup after being activated from IR. He had been sidelined by a concussion. ... Rinne made his NHL debut and got his first career victory on Dec. 15, 2005, against Chicago. ... Blackhawks D Henri Jokiharju will play for Finland in the upcoming world junior championship. The competition runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Vancouver, British Columbia. ... Blackhawks F Alex DeBrincat celebrated his 21st birthday.
Predators: Visit Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Blackhawks: Visit Dallas on Thursday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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Updated December 19, 2018