Nashville: Switzerland’s Roman Josi scored two goals as the Nashville Predators completed a stunning play-off sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks with a dominating 4-1 victory on Thursday.
Viktor Arvidsson and Colton Sissons each added a goal and an assist, and red-hot goaltender Pekka Rinne, of Finland, stopped 30 shots as the Predators eliminated the Blackhawks from the NHL’s first round play-offs in four straight games.
Nashville will face either the Minnesota Wild or the St. Louis Blues in the second round after registering their first four-game series sweep in franchise history.
And it came against the mighty Blackhawks who many had picked as the favourites to come out of the West for the Stanley Cup finals.
But Chicago were sent packing after a 50-win regular season that saw the Blackhawks compile the conference’s top record.
“Getting to this point and falling flat on our face as we did, I don’t really have any words right now,” said Chicago forward Jonathan Toews.
Rinne was the difference, giving up only three goals in the series and stopping 123 shots. The Predators also received scoring from every line.
The Blackhawks suffered from one defensive blunder after another. The Predators proved to be the more hungry team by outworking Chicago at both ends but especially when the puck was in the Blackhawks’ side of the ice.
Josi increased the lead to 3-0 at 10:21 of the third, finishing off a nifty passing sequence by tapping home a wrister.
Blackhawks defenceman Trevor van Riemsdyk was late getting back into the play, allowing Canadian Sissons to set up Josi with a nice feed to the left post as the crowd of 17,300 at the Bridgestone Arena raised the roof with a thunderous cheer.
Elsewhere, Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 to win their first-round series 4-1.
The Penguins built a 3-0 lead through the early part of the second period on a goal by Phil Kessel and two from Bryan Rust.
The Blue Jackets responded with goals from William Karlsson and Boone Jenner to pull to within 3-2 before the end of the second period.
Crosby scored on a one-timer from Evgeni Malkin for a power-play goal and some breathing room at 5:31 of the third before Scott Wilson scored 51 seconds later on a no-look backward tip to give the Penguins a comfortable lead that easily held up to the end of the game.
The Penguins will play either Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals or the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. The series is tied 2-2.