NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Anton Forsberg wasn’t sure whose voice he heard when he went behind his net to retrieve Mattias Ekholm’s hard dump-in from center ice. But he’s sure he heard him wrong. Because after a moment of hesitation, Forsberg made a half-hearted backhand clearing attempt that went right to Nashville’s Craig Smith. Smith sent it over to Scott Hartnell, who centered it to Kyle Turris, who ripped a one-timer past a flustered Forsberg early in the second period Tuesday.
“I misunderstood what he said there,” Forsberg said. “It was stupid.”
Well, his 42 saves more than made up for it.
Forsberg had his most impressive game of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Blackhawks knocked off the Predators 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena — their momentum from a pre-All-Star-break rout of the Red Wings carrying over to the start of a three-game post-break road trip.
Twenty-two of Forsberg’s saves came in a frantic third period, as the Predators pushed for the equalizer. Forsberg was particularly effective at absorbing shots without yielding rebounds, critical when so many forwards are aggressively crashing the net in search of the tying goal. It was the kind of game-stealing performance the Hawks are used to seeing from Corey Crawford. But with Crawford still out indefinitely, it’s the kind they’re going to need every once in a while from Forsberg and Jeff Glass.
“In the third period, he was amazing,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said.
Third period aside, though — that kind of push is inevitable from any team, particularly one as potent as the Predators — the Hawks actually played quite well for much of the game, limiting scoring chances and capitalizing on mistakes. After a solid showing in a loss to the East-leading Lightning, a decent effort in an overtime loss to the Maple Leafs and a strong performance in the blowout of the underwhelming Red Wings, the win over the Predators continued an encouraging stretch for the Hawks.
It might not yet be the “big run” of victories coach Joel Quenneville has been talking about for weeks, but it’s progress. And at this point, any progress is good.
“You need two points,” Seabrook said. “Two points is two points. We can’t worry about [the standings] now. We’ve got to play our game and try to get as many points as we can and see where it falls at the end of the season.”
The Hawks dominated early on, and David Kampf got them on the board at 3:03 of the first period. Tomas Jurco and Vinnie Hinostroza combined to force a turnover in the Predators’ zone, allowing Kampf to step into a loose puck and blast it past Juuse Saros for a 1-0 lead. Forsberg’s gaffe allowed Turris to tie it at 2:12 of the second, but Hinostroza picked up his fifth goal of the season at 14:33 of the second to make it 2-1.
The play started when Patrick Kane took a hit along the boards to free up his linemates, feeding the puck to Nick Schmaltz, who found Hinostroza for a one-timer off the rush.
“One of the best players in the league is taking a hit to make a play, an unselfish play, that goes such a long way,” Hinostroza said. “He made a great play. . . . The more guys are sacrificing themselves for the team, the better we’re going to do.”
The rest of the game became basically an extended penalty kill, as the Hawks clung to the lead, and Forsberg somehow made it stand up. A lousy power play and the passive third-period effort will give Quenneville plenty to focus on going forward, but at this point, as Seabrook said, two points is two points.
“That was a huge win,” Quenneville said. “We’ll take that and look at the positives.”
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