Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night:
1. Blackhawks fly out of the gates.
This is it. No more breaks, no more waiting for the right time to amp it up. The time is now. The Blackhawks are multiple games out of a playoff spot with the stretch run starting, and they played like a team with their backs against the wall out of the gates in their first game back since the All-Star break.
Right from the opening faceoff, there was purpose to their game and it showed after recording nine out of the game's first 11 shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes. The Predators made a late push by peppering six straight shots on goal to close out the period, but the Blackhawks held the fort down and took a 1-0 lead into the second period.
2. Fourth line makes offensive contributions.
David Kampf is the one who gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 3:03 into the game, but it took all three members of the fourth line to make it happen. Tomas Jurco kept the puck alive along the boards and Vinnie Hinostroza made a beautiful touch pass to Kampf, who ripped his second goal of the season past Juuse Saros.
It was Jurco's first point of the season while Hinostroza extended his point streak to three games. Hinostroza also scored the Blackhawks' second goal for his fifth multi-point game of his career and second this season. He has two goals and two assists over his three-game point streak.
Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz each assisted on Hinostroza's goal, and Kane had to take a big hit to make the play. With the assist, Kane has 50 points on the season and has hit that total in each of his 11 NHL seasons.
3. Anton Forsberg commits costly turnover.
This is an area where Corey Crawford is missed. Forsberg isn't the best at handling the puck, and he made a costly error that directly led to the Predators' only goal.
Mattias Ekholm dumped the puck in, Forsberg retrieved it behind his own net, then made a pass intended for Connor Murphy but was intercepted by Craig Smith, who passed it to Scott Hartnell then set up Kyle Turris to even up the score at 1-1 just 2:12 into the second period.
Fortunately for Forsberg, he came up large in the second period aside from that blunder and kept it a tie game before the Blackhawks eventually jumped out in front 2-1.
4. Predators catch a break.
The Blackhawks regained the lead at the 14:33 mark of the second period, and 39 seconds later they were awarded a power play after Kevin Fiala was whistled for cross-checking. Seven seconds after that, Ryan Ellis flipped the puck over the glass but officials huddled up and came to the conclusion that it was deflected out of play.
Replay angles clearly showed that was not the case, and they may have actually had a point as to whether or not the puck went over the bench or the glass but that wasn't discussed. So rather than getting a 5-on-3 power play for 1:53, the Blackhawks were stuck with just the 5-on-4 and they couldn't do anything with it.
It would've been a prime opportunity to take a two-goal lead into the second period against a Predators team that was 0-9-2 this season when trailing after 40 minutes going into this game. Needless to say, Joel Quenneville was not happy about it.
5. Shutting the door.
You can go back and pick a couple games in January where the Blackhawks probably deserved two points but never got them. The 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 10 and 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 22 immediately come to mind, where they did many things right but just couldn't find a way to get a win and that's what matters most at this point.
There are no moral victories anymore. Well, the Blackhawks found a way to pick up two points against the Predators despite getting outshot 22-9 in the third period. They bent but didn't break as Forsberg turned aside all 22 of those shots and finished with a season-high 42 saves.
It was one of those "we'll take it" games, and one where you'll build on the positives and take some confidence into Vancouver on Thursday.