(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)
The Chicago Blackhawks took a 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 win in triple overtime in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
— NHL (@NHL) April 22, 2015
“I don’t think I’ve played a game this late, ever,” Coach Joel Quenneville said after the 1:16 a.m. goal horn.
Blackhawks have appeared in each of the last three triple-OT games in the NHL playoffs (2013 vs BOS, 2014 vs STL)
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) April 22, 2015
It was the longest game in Predators history, and, though the Hawks have a history of multiple OTs, Tuesday’s late start led to a particularly late finish.
Seabrook and goaltender Scott Darling were deemed heroes in the nail-biter, with Seabrook’s game-winner and Darling’s level-headed though acrobatic saves on 50 out of 52 shots.
The Predators took the lead early with Colin Wilson, who has four goals in four games this series, capitalizing on a power play. Seth Jones kept in a clear attempt and passed the puck across to Ryan Ellis, who shot the puck from the point for a tip-in by Wilson with 8:22 left in the first.
Antoine Vermette answered with his first goal of the series less than two minutes later. Patrick Sharp passed the puck behind the net to Michal Rozsival, who put it on net for a redirect by Vermette and a 1-1 score.
In that close first period, the Predators would barely edge the Hawks in shots–13-11. But in the second, the Preds’ recent second period slump would be broken by the Blackhawks’ sloppy second. Nashville would outshoot Chicago 14-7.
And, James Neal would give the Preds their lead back. With just about three minutes left in the period, Neal would steal a pass from Duncan Keith in front of the Blackhawks’ net and shoot it in point-blank for a goal.
Then came the third and a visible shift for Chicago. They led in shots for the period with 12 to the Predators’ five.
With 8:57 to go in regulation, Keith cleared the puck up to Hossa through center ice and Hossa skated toward the net before sending a drop-pass back to Brandon Saad, who shot from the right hashmarks stick side on Rinne into the net.
Neither team would score through the remainder of regulation or the first two full overtimes. Darling would stop a tortuous 18 shots while Rinne would shut down 20.
Then, finally, after 100 minutes of play and a day after his 30th birthday, Seabrook would end it with the 100th shot of the game.
“We were hoping for a hero,” Saad said. “Seabrook’s done it before. It was a big shot.”
Bryan Bickell would go to the net, then start a cycle behind the goal line to Patrick Kane. Bickell went back to screen the goalie while Kane sent the puck over to Seabrook at the blue line for his bomb of a top-shelfer.
“(The Predators) have done a great job all series long of getting in our lanes and I think I had four or five shots (Tuesday night) hitting sticks and bouncing off knee pads and skates and whatnot,” Seabrook said. “Kaner made a great play coming up the boards and laid it in there for me and I just tried to put it on net as hard as I could.”
“He’s had some big ones,” Quenneville said of Seabrook’s shot. “Great play around. Bick nice play to Kaner, Kaner put it on a tee, Bick gets back to the net and I think that’s probably how everyone scripted it: shot, traffic, it goes in. Great shot, great traffic, great pass.” Seabrook is no stranger to coming up clutch.
Darling was credited with the “number one star of the game” and has already been named the starter for Game 5.
“Overtime’s crazy: every shot is do or die. Guys kept the chances outside in overtime and made it easy on me,” Darling said. “I’m thrilled we won. It was a real war, great hockey game, a classic. I’m a little tired but excited to get to bed.”
Quenneville acknowledged how tight the game was–with momentum shifts varying as often as shift to shift–and that the Blackhawks will be facing a team prepared to battle harder and harder.
“The series has been close. My whole team is playing hard. We just can’t seem to get that bounce,” Predators Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Pekka (Rinne) was really good. He made some big saves when we needed him to. I thought our team played hard. I thought we played well. We had more than enough looks, more than enough opportunities to end the game.”
In addition to Darling as the likely starting goalie Thursday, the Blackhawks are expected to stick with their lineup.
The Predators host the Blackhawks at 8:30 p.m. CT Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. It will be broadcast on CSN-CH+, NBCSN, SN360, FS-TN and TVA3.
(Author’s note: As always, check the bold links for videos and other tidbits.)