Penalty kill underscores defensive effort

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the most part, the Chicago Blackhawks kept things simple in their defensive end in Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators, holding their opponents to just 20 shots after the Predators had a season-high 39 in their loss to Columbus on Thursday night.

That being said, there was the matter of the four-minute minor for high sticking assessed to forward Daniel Carcillo at the 7:58 mark of the third period when he caught defenseman Shea Weber in the face with a high stick as the two players fell along the boards. That set up a critical penalty kill that helped secure the victory and preserve goaltender Ray Emery’s second shutout of the season.

“That’s why it was such a big kill, the timing of it, the four minutes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They got an opportunity there, and I thought that was the key moment of the game, that kill.”

The Predators mustered only one shot in six minutes of power-play time Saturday afternoon, and that came in the first period, when defenseman Brent Seabrook was whistled for hooking Nick Spaling. After Carcillo was sent to the box in the third, several Chicago forwards turned up the pressure to prevent the Predators from creating very much sustained possession in the offensive zone.

“That’s a team that you really have to play some boring hockey against, and just kind of be in good defensive position and take advantage when you get the opportunities,” Emery said. “I thought we played that strategy to a T tonight, we got an early goal and we were really mindful of not giving them anything.”

Brandon Saad led all forwards with 1:38 of ice time during the four-minute penalty kill, followed by new acquisition Michal Handzus with 1:24 and Marcus Kruger with 1:23.

“We didn’t lose the momentum and did some good things not to give them some chances off of it,” Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have killed off 85 percent of their penalties so far this season, good for sixth in the league, but they’ve been especially steadfast of late: They have not given up a power-play goal since March 14.

“Throughout the league, you’ll watch, the power plays are down in the league as far as numbers, and I think that helps,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got a couple guys over there that can hit it pretty hard. I thought the guys did a good job positionally.”