Predators beat Blackhawks 4-1 to complete sweep

NASHVILLE — Roman Josi scored twice, Pekka Rinne had 30 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Thursday night to complete a surprising sweep of the Western Conference’s top seed.

Colton Sissons also scored and Viktor Arvidsson added an empty-net goal as Nashville completed the franchise’s first playoff sweep. Led by Rinne and a terrific defensive performance by their lines and defensive pairings, the Predators limited the high-scoring Blackhawks to just three goals in 13 periods.

Nashville will face the winner of the St. Louis-Minnesota series in the second round. The Blues have a 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 on Saturday in Minnesota.

Chicago became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round since the Los Angeles Kings knocked off the Vancouver Canucks on their way to the Stanley Cup title in 2012. Chicago’s second straight first-round exit followed a regular season in which the Blackhawks went 50-23-9 and recorded 109 points, the second-highest total in franchise history.

It was the first time a No. 1 seed was swept in the first round since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 1994. The Blackhawks had the best record in the Campbell Conference and were the Norris Division’s No. 1 seed in 1993 when they got swept by St. Louis in the opening round. That also was the last time the Blackhawks had been swept in a playoff series before Nashville’s dominant performance.

The game was scoreless midway through the second period when Ryan Johansen won a faceoff against Marcus Kruger and passed to Ryan Ellis, who sent it to Josi on his right. Josi fired a slap shot from behind the right circle that got between Corey Crawford’s legs and sneaked into the left corner of the net at 9:41.

Nashville extended the lead to 2-0 with a bizarre goal at 8:52 of the third. Colton Sissons fired a shot that bounced off the cage and appeared to end up in the area of Crawford’s blocker before the puck came loose and rolled into the net. Less than 90 seconds later, Josi beat Crawford on a wrist shot.

Crawford was exceptional for the first 29 1/2 minutes, but he didn’t get much help in the final part of the game. He finished with 22 stops.

In an attempt to create a spark, the Blackhawks shuffled their lines and star forward Patrick Kane played a team-high 23:43. They dressed seven defencemen — Michal Kempny made his playoff debut — and nothing worked.

Chicago avoided the shutout when captain Jonathan Toews scored at 14:42 of the third for his first post-season goal since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Toews had been held without a goal for 12 straight post-season games.

Arvidsson wrapped up the sweep with an empty-netter with 1:48 remaining.

NOTES: Predators forward Craig Smith was scratched after he got hurt in overtime of Game 3. … The Predators brought out more Nashville star power by having Luke Bryan sing the national anthem. John Hiatt performed on a stage behind one of the nets between the second and third periods. Carrie Underwood, who is married to Predators captain Mike Fisher, sang the anthem Monday. … The sellout crowd of 17,326 included Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson.

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