NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Brian Campbell's "strategy" as he came through the slot late in regulation was pretty simple.
"Finding some open net, look up, shoot and hope for the best," Campbell said with a laugh.
The Blackhawks have won seven in a row and 12 of their last 13 games, and stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been at the forefront of this hot streak. But it takes everyone contributing, and sometimes getting big plays and big goals from players who may not get on the scoresheet as often. On Saturday night, the Blackhawks got a little bit of all of that.
Jordin Tootoo got his first goal of the season against his former team and Campbell had the game winner as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 on Saturday night. The Blackhawks are once again atop the Western Conference standings, a point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who were idle on Saturday and have three games in hand. The Blackhawks also established a new franchise-best, eight-game road winning streak.
"It's a fun accomplishment, knowing the organization, franchise has had a proud history, great tradition here. Being recognized as one of the teams that did something pretty amazing," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's fun but I still think we want to keep moving along here, keep trying to get points. We played in some tough buildings, tough games finding ways to win a lot of nights differently. Tonight was a good illustration of that."
Indeed, this one had a little of everything, from Patrick Kane's two goals (power play and empty net) to Jonathan Toews' 17th of the season (power play) to Tootoo's all-around night to Campbell's winner. It was an especially good night for Tootoo, who spurred the Blackhawks with a first-period fight that changed momentum, a drawn penalty that led to Kane's goal and his goal.
"Three huge plays he was involved in. It's good to see," Campbell said. "He works hard every day. You guys see him out there early on the ice. He hasn't played a lot lately but he steps in and does his job. I'm glad he got rewarded."
Entering this one, the Blackhawks were missing four players (Nick Schmaltz, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Scott Darling) and coming off a shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Friday. What was a 3-1 lead near the end of the second period became a 3-3 tie early in the third thanks to Viktor Arvidsson's second goal of the night. It stayed that way until 1:05 remaining in the third period when Toews' pass from the side boards found Campbell in the slot for the winner.
"We have a lot of guys who can make plays in big-time situations. There they came through," Quenneville said. "That's a good goal tonight to show what we're talking about, because that was a great play."
On Feb. 18 the Blackhawks were nine points behind the Wild. They may not stay ahead of them for long now. The Blackhawks have four days off, which they'll use to hopefully get a few injured players back. The Wild, again with three games in hand, will be playing. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks like what they're seeing right now. They're playing great all-around hockey when they're healthy and finding ways when they're not.
"I know [the Wild] had an amazing run and we've had a nice run ourselves. All of a sudden you move up and obviously, whether it was just a dream or something like that, let's keep the pressure on them," Quenneville said. "It was realistic keeping them in our sights."