Hawks stay hot, Crawford blanks Preds 3-0

NASHVILLE—Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa scored, and goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots and the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 Thursday in coach Joel Quenneville’s return to the bench.Quenneville missed four games due to a bleeding ulcer, not that the Blackhawks missed much of a step without him in winning three of those. Now the defending champions have won three straight and four of five.The Predators were shut out for a second straight loss and have lost three straight and four of five.Crawford posted his third shutout this season. Patrick Sharp had an empty netter with 31 seconds left and an assist. The Blackhawks won their season series with the team they ousted in the first round of the playoffs last April 3-1-2.Nashville is among seven teams separated by two points fighting for position in the Western Conference, and that includes the Hawks, who tied the Predators with 70 points with this victory.The Predators opened with urgency after giving up four goals in the third period of a 4-0 loss at Columbus on Tuesday night. They took the first five shots of the game and spent much of the first period in front of Crawford.Kopecky came on as the extra attacker during a delayed penalty, and Sharp passed to him as Kopecky reached the right circle where he snapped a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne at 17:12 for the 1-0 lead and his 11th goal this season.The Hawks almost had another goal 1:25 into the second when Ryan Johnson crashed into Rinne with the puck possibly sliding past the goal line, but a review ruled no goal. Rinne had another big save, blocking Duncan Keith’s shot from right in front midway through the period.With Crawford stopping the Predators, Hossa helped seal the victory early in the third with his 14th this season. He broke up a pass, gathered the puck and scored on a breakaway with a wrister under Rinne’s right arm at 2:35.The Predators thought they had scored with 5:59 left, but officials immediately waved off the goal. David Legwand brushed past Crawford, knocking him off balance before Colin Wilson tapped the puck in. Crawford also had a nice pad save on Wilson with about 1:20 left.

NOTES—The Blackhawks improved to 22-3-6 when scoring first. … Kopecky’s goal was only the fifth Nashville has allowed in the first period over the past 15 games. … Sharp’s assist was the 300th point of his NHL career. … The Predators notched their 11th sellout of the season in their 28th home game and fifth in the past nine.