Eeli Tolvanen, Colton Sissons help Predators bounce back vs Blackhawks in tight playoff race

Mike Organ
Nashville Tennessean

Eeli Tolvanen wasn’t happy Thursday after his six-game point streak ended in a loss to Dallas that also ended the Nashville Predators' six-game winning streak.

Colton Sissons wasn’t happy and was particularly disappointed with his team’s lack of execution and puck handling.

So it came as no surprise that it was Tolvanen and Sissons who helped lift the Predators to a 3-0 shutout Saturday of the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

Apr 3, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Eeli Tolvanen (28) scores on the power play during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

Tolvanen scored a power play goal on a walk-in slap shot six minutes in, and Sissons put the Preds up 2-0 on a short-handed penalty shot in the second period. Luke Kunin added a goal in the third.

Juuse Saros recorded 40 saves and helped Nashville kill off a 5-on-3 power play in the third period to record his second shutout of the season and 13th of his career.

The Predators (20-18-1) pulled two points ahead of the Blackhawks (17-17-5) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

"We knew this was going to be a big game and It was a good bounce back after that Dallas game," Tolvanen said.

"We had kind of a slow start. We got the power play goal, but didn't play that well in the first period. At the start of the second it was kind of the same thing, but later in the second we found our game and in the third we just kept rolling and got a huge win."

It was the ninth victory in the last 11 games for the Predators, who have 17 games left.

Apr 3, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (10) scores on a penalty shot past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena.

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Sissons, who scored Nashville's only goal against Dallas, said the Predators played with a sense of urgency, considering the tight Central Division race, Saturday that was missing against the Stars.

"We understand how important these games are, especially these games that are head-to-head with teams that are neck-and-neck with us," Sissons said. "We've been able to rise to the occasion and not succumb to that pressure. We're pretty comfortable right now and we've built some confidence over the last few weeks."

Sissons' shorthanded penalty-shot goal was only the sixth in Predators' history and the first since Martin Erat on Nov. 9, 2011, at Anaheim.

Saros passed Chris Mason for third place on the Predators' career shutouts list. Mason is now the team's television analyst.

"It's kind of cool — I remember when Mase played, he had a great career and I've gotten to know him and he is even a better guy," Saros said. "It's an honor to get passed him."

Viktor Arvidsson hurt

Apr 3, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) on the ice after being hit during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators' Viktor Arvidsson was injured after a colliding with the Blackhawks' Kirby Dach in front of Nashville's bench in the second period.

Arvidsson laid on the ice motionless for several minutes before finally being able to make it to his knees. He was then helped to the locker room and did not return.

The team reported Arvidsson was suffering from upper-body discomfort and being evaluated by the medical staff.

Earlier in the day the Predators announced that defenseman Alexandre Carrier, who suffered a lower-body injury against Dallas, would be out 3-5 weeks.

Roman Josi becomes top Swiss scorer

Predators captain Roman Josi assisted along with Calle Jarnkrok on Tolvanen's goal, which gave Josi 435 career points (113 goals, 322 assists).

That made Josi the highest-scoring Swiss-born player in NHL history. He moved ahead of Mark Streit.

 "When you sit back and think about it, that's a tremendous accomplishment," coach John Hynes said. "Swiss hockey is really producing more and more players and being much more competitive on the international stage and Roman's a big part of that." 

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.