Preds pound Blackhawks 5-0 for 2-0 lead in 1st-round series

Preds pound Blackhawks 5-0 for 2-0 lead in 1st-round series

CHICAGO — Pekka Rinne was great again. Ryan Johansen had a big night, and Nashville got a lift from a couple of unlikely scorers.

The Predators are singing a sweet tune on their way home to Music City, threatening to play the Chicago Blackhawks right out of the post-season.

Rinne made 30 saves in his second straight shutout and picked up two assists, helping Nashville rout Chicago 5-0 on Saturday for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

“Character win the first one, and then tonight played a really solid game,” Rinne said.

Johansen had a goal and two assists as Nashville added a dominant performance to its taut 1-0 victory in Game 1 on Thursday night.

Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala each scored their first career playoff goal.

The Predators became the fifth NHL team to begin a post-season with consecutive road shutouts, joining Detroit (1936), Buffalo (1983), New Jersey (1995) and Toronto (2001). Game 3 is Monday night in Nashville.

“A lot of guys played great hockey out there,” Ellis said. “We got the result we wanted, but we’ve got a lot of work left to do and it doesn’t stop here.”

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lineup, inserting rookie Vinnie Hinostroza and Dennis Rasmussen and benching veteran Jordin Tootoo and John Hayden. But it was more of the same for the Blackhawks, who once again looked out of sync against the Predators’ active defence.

“That was frustration to a different level,” Quenneville said. “That wasn’t fun to watch. I think you can look at it, we dug ourselves a tremendous hole across the board. Not too many positives come out of tonight’s game.”

Chicago was shut out in consecutive playoff games for the first time since it was blanked in three straight in April 2002 against St. Louis. It has dropped six in a row dating to the end of the regular season.

The sellout crowd of 22,175 booed as the final seconds of the second period ticked off, and there were more jeers in the third.

“It seems like right now we’re playing a little bit tight,” forward Marian Hossa said. “Obviously everybody’s trying to score that goal. We have to play our way, the way we’ve played all season. We have to take a deep breath, throw this one in the garbage and focus on Game 3.”

The Blackhawks, who finished with a Western Conference-best 109 points this year, took the last four of their five meetings with the Predators during the regular season. They also controlled much of Game 1, outshooting the Predators 29-20, albeit with many of the attempts coming from outside.

But this one was all Nashville, right from the start.

“Overall I thought it was a much better consistent effort tonight than it was in Game 1,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

After Richard Panik had a shot go off a post in the opening minute, the Predators began to take over. Ellis’ shot from the high slot was blocked by a sliding Panik, but the defenceman tried again and drove it by Corey Crawford for a 1-0 lead at 3:44.

Viktor Arvidsson, who scored the only goal in Game 1, provided a perfect screen on the play, with Ellis’ shot going between his legs on the way to the net.

The Predators added two more in the second.

Rinne picked up a secondary assist when Mattias Ekholm found Zolnierczyk with a great stretch pass, and the forward shot it off Crawford’s left shoulder for a 2-0 lead at 2:51.

“Once I cut in I wanted to get it over his shoulder there far side, and I was just lucky there was enough room to get it done,” Zolnierczyk said.

The Blackhawks nearly got on the board about 30 seconds later, but captain Jonathan Toews shot it off the right post. Sissons then knocked in his own rebound with 7 minutes left.

It was Sissons’ first point since he scored two goals against San Jose on March 25.

“It was good to get a balance,” Laviolette said. “We’ve been trying to roll the lines and it was good to get a balance in scoring and get all the guys contributing.”

NOTES: Predators F Colin Wilson was scratched again with a lower-body injury…. The Blackhawks are 0 for 4 on the power play for the series. … Crawford finished with 24 saves. … The last time Chicago dropped the first two games of a playoff series at home was in 1995 against Toronto. The Blackhawks won the series in seven games.

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More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Jay Cohen, The Associated Press

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