NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The big boys came through in a big game.
That would be Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
They are two of the Blackhawks' biggest stars and they produced when it was really on the line Thursday night, accounting for all the scoring in a critical 3-0 win over the Predators that evened this best-of-seven first-round playoff series at 2-2.
Sharp scored twice and Toews once to put the Hawks back in the series driver's seat with Game 5 Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
"We can't be satisfied knowing we won one game here," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We know momentum is very important in the playoffs, and once you have it you want to keep it for as long as you can."
Hawks goalie Antti Niemi made 33 saves to earn his second shutout of the series.
"I thought we skated a little bit better this game and came out with better energy and enthusiasm," Sharp said. "You never want to say must-win this early, but we went in knowing we had to win this one for sure."
The Hawks broke it open with 2 goals in the second period, surviving some tentative play early in the period when they were ahead by 1.
A big save by Niemi on Steve Sullivan's partial breakaway at 10:54 of the second period with the teams playing 4-on-4 became more important minutes later when Toews scored on a Marian Hossa rebound at 12:55 to make it 2-0.
Sharp got his second goal of the night at 16:17 of the second when he skated past defenseman Ryan Suter, cut into the high slot and beat goalie Pekka Rinne with a high wrist shot.
Sharp had opened the scoring at 10:57 of the first period on a power play as he crashed the net with Toews and Patrick Kane to poke in a loose puck, setting the tone for how the Hawks wanted to play.
"You hear all the keys to the power play, just getting the puck to the net and crashing it and looking for loose pucks, and that's what we did," Sharp said.
The power play happened because Bryan Bickell drove hard to the net and was interfered with by defenseman Francis Bouillon. Bickell, inserted into the lineup for the first time in the series, also assisted on Toews' goal.
"With Bick, you like what he brings," Quenneville said.
The game's key sequence may have been late in the first period when the Hawks found themselves short-handed by two men for 1:51.
Niemi had 3 big saves and defenseman Brent Sopel blocked 2 shots before Nashville's David Legwand was penalized for goalie interference after 1:18 of the 5-on-3.
"You just try to get in front of it and if it hits me, obviously it's not going in the net," Sopel said. "You've got to do whatever it takes."
"We shot a lot of pucks, but we just didn't get them through or missed the net," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
With the difficult situation the Hawks found themselves in, down 2-1 in the series, Brian Campbell came back from his broken collarbone ahead of schedule to provide a big lift on defense.
"It's playoff hockey, you know?" Campbell said. "With us down in the series, I just felt I needed to come back."
Campbell, who played 14 minutes, suffered a broken collarbone March 14 and doctors said originally he would miss seven to eight weeks. It will be six weeks on Sunday.
"For the first game in a long time for him, he did a remarkable job," Quenneville said.