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When the Nashville Predators had a 3-0 lead going into game one’s first intermission, it was clear something had to change for the Chicago Blackhawks. And though only one of the three goals could really be attributed to goaltender Corey Crawford‘s judgment, a change in net to backup goalie Scott Darling seemed to make all the difference for the Hawks, who made a three-goal comeback the following period.
It would take two overtimes before Chicago’s Duncan Keith scored the game-winning (and mercifully, game-ending) goal.
In an uncharacteristically gold Bridgestone arena, the Blackhawks fell fast.
Just over six minutes after puck-drop, Colin Wilson capitalized on a defensive flub by Michal Rozsival, firing a wrister from the left circle over Crawford’s shoulder.
Calle Jarnkrok passed the puck through Crawford, who was stuck behind the net, to Viktor Stalberg who shot it into an empty goal with 2:40 left in the period. Matt Cullen assisted .
The turning point
Who knows what was said in the locker room at intermission, but something changed.
Though Crawford could only really be faulted for one of the first period’s goals, a big move had to be made to turn the game around before the Hawks hit the ice again. Coach Joel Quenneville put Darling in net.
And then the Blackhawks showed they could, in fact, score on the power play.
About five minutes later on another power play, Toews tied the game by pushing the puck through a busy net-front after Keith passed from the point down to Kane and over to Toews.
“Just trying to stop the bleeding,” Darling said. “We didn’t play very good in the first to help out Crow, but they played great in the second period.
“They played great the whole night for me, and it’s awesome.”
The merciful finish
Though tight, Nashville would seem to have the advantage through the third period and first overtime, with Darling stopping 32 shots in those periods.
Neither team managed to score despite plenty of opportunities (Nashville had 38 shots on goal in the third period and first and second overtimes while Chicago had 24 before the game-winner), but advantage shifted
Then, 7:49 into the second overtime, Keith fired a slapshot from the point past Pekka Rinne after a feed from Hossa and Toews.
“I can’t really remember exactly what happened,” Keith said. “I just know that Hoss had a nice bank pass to get it back to me. I just tried to get it on net as quick as I could. I don’t know if the goalie was able to see it very well. I think we had some guys going to the net, and that helped out on the screen.”
Nashville led the game in shots (54-42), hits (39-28), faceoff wins (54-34) and blocked shots (32-16).
“I thought our guys played hard tonight,” Nashville Coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was a stretch in the second period there when we lost our way, but I think we did a good job of getting back on the train we needed to be on in order to be successful. The third period, the overtimes, we had a lot of chances to score. You have to give their goaltender credit.”
Darling stopped 42 of 42 shots during his time in net.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 16, 2015
The teams tied in penalty minutes with 12 apiece, but Chicago was able to score on two of their six power plays.
- Mike Fisher left the game early with a lower body injury–no particular instance was cited–and has been labeled day-to-day. He’d just returned to play from a lower body injury.
“Mike fills a lot of roles for us,” Laviolette said. “He’s a big part of our team. He’s a leader on and off the ice. He plays in every situation you can think of.”
- Kane, who played in his first game in seven weeks after a suffering a broken clavicle, called his play “rusty,” but had two assists.
Quenneville said he contributed to the team’s previously lacking power play.
“Top guys in the league have a real good patience level with the puck and play recognition,” the coach said. “Sometimes they can settle a play down in the offensive zone, and all of a sudden, when you look like you’re on the run on the power play, you’re scrambling, and it’s kind of one of those modes just to get a puck back in a retrieval area, so he saves a lot of those loose puck battles and sustains a lot of presence in the offensive zone, and his play recognition’s high end.
“I think he gives our opponents something more to think about, as well. He’s a great weapon in that area and can open up other areas too, if they want to keep a closer eye on him.”
- Darling, a Chicago-area native whose career has taken him all around the country, stopped all 42 shots that came his way Wednesday. While there was much debate over who will start in net for the next game with talent from both goaltenders, Quenneville will be sticking with his starter–Crawford.
Crawford (along with the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price) is this year’s William M. Jennings Trophy recipient. He has NHL playoff experience under his belt and a .924 save percentage this season. Darling is the Blackhawks’ Masterson Trophy nominee.
- Quenneville is expected to start the same roster and will likely again lean heavily on defensemen Keith, Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya–as Rozsival has been consistently showing trouble keeping up with the action and Timonen is returning from health concerns.
The Predators host the Blackhawks again at 8:30 p.m. CT Friday and will be broadcast on CSN-CH, NBCSN, SN, SN360, and TVA3.