The puck was definitely going home with him. Maybe traveling in a coat pocketor a gym bag.
Tuomo Ruutu hadn't thought that far ahead. He wasn't sure yet how he was going to preserve it, but he figured he would put it somewhere special.
"It's fun, you know," he said. "It doesn't happen every day."
The 21-year-old rookie center scored his first NHL goal Sunday night and it proved to be the game-winner as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 at the United Center.
Blackhawks' victories don't happen every day either. The win over Nashville lifted the Hawks' record to 2-4. It came at a critical timeone night after the team had been battered 7-2 in Atlanta.
"We needed this win, and we're happy about it," said Ruutu, who had a bruise as colorful as an Arizona sunset on his right cheek as a souvenir of Saturday's loss. "I think we improved in every area."
There was plenty of empirical evidence to support that notion. The Hawks outshot Nashville 31-22. They killed three penalties spread over 5 minutes 13 seconds in the third period, when they led only 2-1. And they got goals from Tyler Arnason, Ruutu and Kyle Calder at opportune moments.
The Hawks controlled the game from the first faceoff on a night when a slow start might have been demoralizing.
"We were ready," coach Brian Sutter said. "It took a lot of character to do what we did tonight after last night. It is a character win, big-time."
The Hawks immediately put pressure on Predators goalie Chris Mason, who saw his first action of the season.
Nashville's David Legwand scored on Hawks goalie Jocelyn Thibault at 16:54 of the second period to make it 1-0, but Arnason answered 23 seconds later to tie the score.
"I think that was huge," Arnason said. "Things haven't gone too well for us lately."
For most of the night the Hawks had the better chances but failed to score. Ruutu's power-play goal :53 into the third period changed that. He took a pass off the boards from Brett McLean and blasted a shot from the faceoff circle to Mason's left. Winger Steve Sullivan, who picked up the puck for Ruutu, also assisted.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime shot and it went," Ruutu said.
The Hawks were at risk soon after, when Nathan Dempsey, Mark Bell and Jon Klemm were whistled for consecutive two-minute penalties. Nashville had a five-on-three advantage part of the time.
But timely clears and Thibault's goaltending smothered Nashville.
The Hawks, who have been short-handed a league-leading 47 times this season, killed six of Nashville's seven power-play chances.
Then, at 13:50 of the third period, Calder stuffed a shot past Mason.
"It was probably a key moment in the game," Thibault said of the penalty-killing. "That's where we won the game. Over the first two periods I thought we dominated. We played an awesome game."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun