CHICAGO - Mikael Grunland, Rocco Grimaldi and Ryan Johansen scored, and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive win.
Luke Kunin had two assists as Nashville (17-17-1) moved ahead of Columbus into fifth in the Central Division, two points behind the Blackhawks in the race for the division’s final playoff berth.
Chicago (16-14-5) lost for the fifth time in seven games. Pius Suter scored for the third straight game, but the Blackhawks were unable to generate much offense against the defensive-minded Predators.
Grimaldi lifted Nashville to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period with his fifth goal in two games, beating Kevin Lankinen from the high slot at 12:58. He scored four times on Thursday in Dallas.
Suter got one back for Chicago late in the second, jumping on a rebound and beating Juuse Saros at 17:33. It was Suter’s 11th of the season.
With the Predators keeping the Blackhawks on the perimeter for most of the night, Saros stopped 29 shots in his ninth win of the season, moving ahead of No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Grunland made it 3-1 by converting Chicago defenseman Calvin de Haan’s turnover in the slot into an easy goal 51 seconds into the third.
Johansen opened the scoring for the Predators 5:10 into the first. Alone in the slot, he converted Viktor Arvidsson’s pass from behind the net.
Kunin provided a lift in his return after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. He replaced leading Predators forward Filip Forsberg, a surprise scratch with an upper-body injury.
Lankinen stopped 31 shots for Chicago.
Second-year forward Kirby Dach made his season debut for the Blackhawks, activated from long-term injured reserve after missing the first 34 games. Dach fractured his right wrist while playing for Canada’s world junior team during an exhibition against Russia. The third-overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft had eight goals and 15 assists in 64 games during his rookie season with the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks host the Predators again on Sunday night.