News

Ryan Hartman hat trick leads Blackhawks past Predators, 5-2

Ryan Hartman isn’t into style points.

“A goal is a goal,” he said.

The Blackhawks rookie knows his job is more about grit, perseverance and hard work than anything else and ended up right where he should be Sunday night — at the right place at the right time.

Hartman turned a fortuitous deflection into a tie-breaking goal and parlayed his good fortune into a third-period hat trick — capped by two empty-net goals — that sparked the Hawks to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators before 21,822 at the United Center.

Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (left) and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne battle for the puck during the second period (Nam Y. Huh/AP

Hartman scored the tie-breaking goal at 11:49 of the third period when a shot by Richard Panik in front of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne popped up in the air and off Hartman’s hip for a 3-2 Hawks lead.

With Panik going between his legs for a shot on goal, Hartman was rushing the net from the right side and defended by Mike Fisher. Adding to the confusion, the net was dislodged just as the puck crossed the goal line. Upon review, officials determined the net was dislodged after the puck crossed the goal line and that Hartman did not direct the puck into the net. Center Tanner Kero also assisted on the goal.

“It was just a battle in front,” Hartman said. “Pans made a good play at the net and I don’t really know how it came to me. But I was trying to get to the net and I just felt it go off my hip. So, a lucky one.”

Hartman will take it and so will the Hawks (26-12-5), who won their third consecutive game following a stretch of five losses in six games (1-4-1). Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson also scored goals. Patrick Kane had three assists. And Corey Crawford stopped 25-of-27 shots for the win.

After two Predators shots hit the post following Hartman’s tie-breaking goals, Hartman added two empty-net goals in the final 1:14 for an odd hat trick — his first in the NHL — that he will take. Hartman has 10 goals this season.

“It’s not really how you draw it up. But they count. I don’t think anyone is going to remember [how they went in] in a couple of days.”

“It was certainly a pretty remarkable way of scoring three gaoals in a short amount of time without really making a play on the goaltender,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he did some good things and he’s been progressing. A good way to end the game.”

It’s worth noting the Predators (17-16-7) were short-handed. Not only have they been without All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban for 11 games, but they also were missing forwards James Neal, Colin Wilson and Viktor Arvidsson, their second-leading scorer. The Hawks were playing their fourth game without center Marcus Kruger.

Panarin gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead with a particular nasty one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Kane. “One of the best shots you’ll ever see,” Kane said. It was Panarin’s 17th goal  and 41st point of the season.

The lead lasted just 45 seconds, as a neutral-zone turnover led to Mattias Ekholm’s goal that tied the game 1-1. Ekholm, taking a pass from Mike Fisher, beat Corey Crawford from the left circle.

Hjalmarsson gave the Hawks the lead when he took a pass from Kane and fired a shot from the point went through an Artem Anisimov screen and past Pekka Rinne to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead at 14:04 of the first period.

It was Hjalmarsson’s fifth goal of the season. The most he’s scored in one season in eight years with the Hawks. Hjalmarsson has scored as many goals in 42 games this season as he scored in 163 games over the previous two seasons.

After the recent slump, the Hawks have not forgotten how to win close games — 17 of their last 18 victories have come in games that were within a goal in the third period. The Hawks conclude a four-game homestand against the Red Wings on Tuesday night.

“It’s huge,” said Kane, whose three assists gave him 32 for the seasons for 44 points. “We talked about having a good homestand and  every game’s been pretty close. Big comeback win against Buffalo; kind of hung in there against Carolina; and then you find yourself 2-2 in the third [against the Predators] — it’s nice to get that third one and kind of build off of that. Hopefully we’re trending in the right direction.”