Pekka Rinne grinned and grinned and grinned.
John Hynes got his first win with Nashville and Colin Blackwell scored his first NHL goal, but the game belonged to Rinne after one historic shot.
Rinne became the 12th goaltender in NHL history to score when he converted an empty-netter with 22 seconds left, punctuating the Predators’ 5-2 victory over the sloppy Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
“I obviously understand that it might be a once in a lifetime thing,” a smiling Rinne said, “so I really enjoyed it. It was an awesome feeling seeing that puck go in.”
Nashville had a 4-2 lead when Rinne fired the puck into the air from behind his own net. It landed inside Chicago’s blue line and slid into the goal before Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach could chase it down.
The 37-year-old Rinne said he realized it went in when he saw teammate Nick Bonino celebrating.
“It was pretty cool,” said Rinne, who had 29 saves. “I just threw my hands up in the air and tried to act as cool as I can.”
Rinne was mobbed by his teammates after the first goal for an NHL goaltender since Mike Smith accomplished the feat for the Coyotes on Oct. 19, 2013, against Detroit. Rinne became the second-oldest goaltender to score in a regular-season game, trailing only Martin Brodeur.
“That was the first time I’ve ever been a part of a goalie goal, so I think I almost jumped to the top of the building when that happened,” Blackwell said. “That was pretty unreal.”
Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville (20-16-7), which had dropped five of six. Bonino also had an empty-net goal before Rinne got his 14th career point.
“Really happy for the guys,” Hynes said. “It’s been a tough week for them.”
Hynes became the third coach in franchise history after Peter Laviolette was fired on Monday. Hynes dropped his debut when Nashville lost 6-2 to Boston on Tuesday night, but the Predators held off the Blackhawks in the final part of the third after nearly blowing a three-goal lead.
Dominik Kubalik scored for the third straight game, but Chicago (19-20-6) dropped to 1-2 on its four-game homestand. Alex DeBrincat added a power-play goal in the third period, and Corey Crawford finished with 25 saves.
“I thought we played really well the last 40 minutes of the game, but we can’t be satisfied with that,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Pretty disappointing. We wasted some really good efforts for some players.”
After DeBrincat’s slick backhand trimmed Nashville’s lead to 3-2, the Blackhawks pushed hard for the tying goal. But Rinne helped the Predators kill off a power play before Bonino put it away with his 14th goal.
Nashville skated circles around Chicago at the start of the game, and the Blackhawks made several mistakes that led to quality opportunities for the Predators.
“They were ready to go. We gave them chances,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Even if you’re not having your best period, you can find ways to play.”
All-Star defenceman Roman Josi danced around Chicago defenceman Adam Boqvist before trying a backhand that went off Arvidsson on its way to the net. Arvidsson was awarded his 10th goal at 3:16, and Josi extended his point streak to 12 games.
Blackwell then made it 2-0 with his first career goal in his 17th game. Yakov Trenin took the puck away from the 19-year-old Boqvist before passing to Blackwell for the wide-open opportunity in the low right circle.
Blackwell entered the lineup in place of Austin Watson, who was a healthy scratch.
Another Blackhawks turnover led to the Predators’ third goal. Duchene slipped behind Chicago defenceman Slater Koekkoek, got a pass from Mattias Ekholm and beat Crawford for his 10th at 16:55.
Duchene, who turns 29 next week, has two goals and four assists in his last four games.
Blackhawks C Dylan Strome was scratched after he hurt his right ankle during Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Calgary. He is day to day. ... Predators F Kyle Turris played in his 700th NHL game. ... Blackhawks G Robin Lehner was active for the first time since he injured his right knee Jan. 2 at Vancouver. ... Blackhawks F Drake Caggiula played for the first time since Nov. 10. He had been sidelined by a concussion.
Predators: Visit the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
Blackhawks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.