DeBrincat had 41 goals last season, his second in the NHL. The 22-year-old forward has had a hard time trying to replicate that in 2019-20 and has just four goals in his last 13 games.
“Nice to see that puck go in for Brinksy,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’ve had a bunch of games lately where we played hard and didn’t get rewarded. So it helps to move this thing forward when you get a win.”
Corey Crawford finished with 42 saves in an up-tempo goaltenders’ duel between Central Division rivals. Rinne blocked 36 shots, including Brandon Saad’s first-period penalty shot.
“(Crawford) was excellent,” Colliton said. “Big saves and very calm back there as usual.”
Mattias Ekholm scored in the second period for Nashville.
“I thought both goalies played well,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “You like the fact that you were able to generate quality chances, but the fact you gave up as many as you did is something we’ve got to clean up.”
Fading Chicago won for the second time in nine games (2-5-2). Nashville closed within two points of the second Western Conference wild-card spot, but Rinne wasn’t happy.
“Sure, you take the one point,” Rinne said, “but it’s for sure frustrating when you lose. I don’t think it was very good hockey game overall, just two teams afraid to lose the game.”
Duncan Keith earned his 600th career assist on DeBrincat’s first goal, then picked up another on the game-winner.
Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis returned after missing 20 games with a concussion. Ellis had been sidelined since the Stars’ Corey Perry elbowed him in the head on New Year’s Day at the NHL’s Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Perry got a five-game suspension for the hit.
The Blackhawks canceled their practice on Thursday to “reset” following a crushing 6-3 home loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night when they allowed five goals in the third period.
Chicago responded by taking the first eight shots of the game against Nashville, but ended up outshooting the Predators just 12-10 in a scoreless first period.
Rinne stopped Saad on a penalty shot midway through the first, making a left pad save. Saad was awarded the chance after he was hooked from behind by Filip Forsberg on a short-handed breakaway.
The Predators outshot Chicago 20-9 in the second period.
After Crawford denied Nashville several times from close range, Ekholm finally connected with 5:04 left in the period on Nashville’s 26th shot — and the 45th overall in the game.
Trailing in late on a rush, Ekholm took Rocco Grimaldi’s pass from the right circle, fired from the slot and beat Crawford with a fluttering shot on the stick side that slipped just inside the left post.
Crawford stayed sharp as Chicago killed a 73-second, 5-on-3 Nashville power play in the late in the period.
Rinne made sensational diving saves on Patrick Kane and DeBrincat during an extended Chicago power play early in the third that included a 31-second 5-on-3 advantage.
DeBrincat tied it on a midair deflection of Kane’s shot at 9:05 of the third. Kane’s drive from the left side bounced in off DeBrincat’s glove.
Drake Caggiula narrowly missed on a goalmouth deflection with 18 seconds left.
NOTES: Saad is 0 for 3 on penalty shots for his career. … Nashville F Nick Bonino sat out with an illness. … Blackhawks D Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch for the second time this season, stirring rumors ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline. “Hockey ops made the call,” Colliton said. “They wanted to pull him, so we acted accordingly.” … Chicago C Zack Smith missed his fourth game with a left hand injury. … Injured Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen attended. He’s a friend of Rinne, a fellow Finn.
Predators: Host Columbus on Saturday.
Blackhawks: At Dallas on Sunday to open a four-game trip.
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