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Derek King gets first coaching win as Blackhawks beat Predators in overtime

The Hawks showed — in Sunday’s 2-1 victory — some unity and desperation rarely seen in their disastrous opening month.

Alex DeBrincat (right) scored the overtime winner as the Blackhawks beat the Predators 2-1 on Sunday.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Moments after scoring the Blackhawks’ winner Sunday, Alex DeBrincat reached into the net and grabbed the puck for interim coach Derek King.

After watching from the minors as the Hawks limped to one win in their first 12 games, King only needed one game to earn his first career victory, 2-1 in overtime over the Predators. But he was reluctant to accept any of the credit.

“It was a nice gesture,” King said. “It’s your first game and you get a win, obviously you’re pumped about it.

“But this is not about me. This is about those guys.

‘‘I told them: ‘You guys should be proud of each other because you stuck together and fought through it, and you got a win out of it.’”

Despite a lack of familiarity with their new boss — King’s coaching opportunities before puck drop consisted of three team meetings and one half-hour morning skate — the Hawks showed some unity and desperation rarely seen in their disastrous opening month.

The Hawks held the Predators to only 21 shots on goal, tied for the fewest they’ve allowed since Feb. 12, 2020, and overcame some spectacular goaltending by Juuse Saros to prevail thanks to a give-and-go between DeBrincat and Patrick Kane in overtime.

“The message was: ‘Just play the game right, don’t cheat it and stay loose — let’s have fun with this,’ ’’ King said. “It wasn’t always pretty, but they found a way.”

King said he leaned on Marc Crawford for pre-scouting the Predators and rolling line combinations, which became especially difficult in the third period after Brandon Hagel and MacKenzie Entwistle left with injuries.

But some of King’s and Crawford’s preferences nonetheless became clear.

Erik Gustafsson — whose frequent defensive gaffes had seemingly gone unpunished by ex-coach Jeremy Colliton in recent weeks — saw a drastic reduction to only 6:21 of ice time, for example.

“Crawford and [King] did a good job of getting the message across that we wanted to play free, we wanted to play on our instincts and also play with a lot of energy,” Kane said.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” DeBrincat added. “It’s a little bit easier to turn the page and start fresh . . . [when] you hear a new voice. It’s easier to forget about what happened yesterday or two days ago or a couple of weeks ago.”