By Brad Vandenberk
There was a marathon at the United Center on Tuesday night as the Hawks found themselves beating the Nashville Predators in three overtimes, 3-2.
Chicago did not hold a single lead during the game, but still eventually found a way to win and take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Brandon Saad scored the tying goal with Antoine Vermette getting his first tally as a Blackhawk, tipping one past Rinne in the opening period, the first of six on Tuesday.
Shea Weber and Mike Fisher did not dress for this one, but you can be sure with their season on the line that they will try and play on Thursday night when the series shifts back to Nashville. Scott Darling and Pekka Rinne faced a ton of traffic and shots and lasted the entire 5 periods.
The opening period saw the Hawks using their speed in the Predators zone creating some early chances. Kimmo Timonen sprawls out to make a great defensive play breaking up a pass on a 2 on 1. Rinne looks shaky once again letting out monster rebounds. Duncan Keith pinches to try and make a play and gets caught with a Predator 2 on 1 the other way. He did recover to make a play and Darling was there to ensure the save was made. Philip Forsberg starts to throw his weight around hammering Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Hawks continue to create pressure in the Preds zone. Matt Cullen and Toews mix it up after a whistle as each team tries to add an edge. Bryan Bickell gives Nashville their first power play hooking James Neal. Ryan Ellis fires a shot on net and Colin Wilson tips it past Darling 1-0. Antoine Vermette final makes his trade value worthy, tipping a Michal Rozsival pass in the slot over Rinne, tying the game at 1. Darling finishes the period with some huge saves and the Predators head to the dressing room leading 13-11 in shots.
Darling continues to get help from his defense as the Preds are now creating as much traffic as they can in front of Darling. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp work a give and go. Michal Rozsival and Vermette try and resemble the goal from earlier trying the same move. At this stage Patrick Kane is double shifting finding his way on all kinds of lines. Vermette heads to the box for cross checking Neal and Neal also heads to the box for embellishment. Both teams shared some chances on the 4 on 4. Viktor Stalberg handcuffs Darling with a tricky shot. Stalberg then hits Toews along the boards and the captain was slow to get up but stayed in the game. Darling uses his 6’6” falling in the crease to make a save. Keith then tries to make a clear a puck off a Darling rebound. Neal is on the doorstep to put home the giveaway 2-1. The period ends with the Predators still leading in shots on net 27-18.
Nashville wants to win this game and come out flying to open the final period, of regulation. Gabriel Bourque sends Rozsival flying after a thunderous hit. The lines all over the map with Kane being spotted on every line. Hjalmarsson takes a slashing penalty breaking Stalberg’s stick. Brandon Saad gets a great shorthanded opportunity drawing a penalty on Forsberg for hooking. Back to some more 4 on 4 hockey for 1:43. The first Hawks power play was just 17 seconds long. The minute both teams come to full strength, Bourque is called for interference throwing his stick at Kane who is too fast. The power play is terrible with Nashville clearing the puck 5 times. At the 8:57 mark Hossa enters the zone and leaves the puck for Saad who rips it past Rinne from the slot tying it at 2. Darling makes another save on Stalberg who breaks through the defensive. Rinne makes a ridiculous save on Hossa who shots a one timer from Saad. More hockey is required. Shots are 32-30 Nashville as we head to overtime.
Darling needs to keep the Hawks alive making some timely saves. Sharp sends a shot wide. Kane hustles back to help break up a 2 on 1 Preds attempt. Rinne starts to shine robbing Versteeg on multiple occasions. Johnny Oduya fools Stalberg’s shot attempt and overtime is very much alive. Kane continue to double shift. It’s now Darling’s turn to make back to back saves. Andrew Desjardins walks in from the wing trying to stuff it past Rinne, but the big net minder keeps it tied. Keith then makes a play that you will see on many highlight reels performing a double give and go. Too bad he doesn’t finish the game as Rinne stays alert. As the tired crowd gets restless, Rinne offers some comic relief losing the puck in his gear delaying the game to find it. Both teams get a laugh out of it as Rinne is some soft music away from stripping down. Neal gets two chances of the faceoff but Darling makes the saves. It’s time for another OT.
This isn’t like your regular season NHL, these games require a goal to end it. Just 9 seconds in, Hossa sends a quick shot on Rinne, just to keep him honest. The Hawks get a power play in OT when Cullen trips up Saad. Kane works the point for this unit, but to no avail as the Hawks struggle to gain the zone. The pace is with both teams sharing scoring chances. Rinne and Darling make saves to keep it locked. The Hawks get another power play attempt in the second overtime when Forsberg sends the puck over the glass. During the delay of game penalty, Shaw slashes Ellis stick out of his hand and heads to the box negating the power play with 44 seconds left. Nashville gets a 1:16 of power play time as the second overtime comes to a close. Darling makes some great saves and a third, count em third overtime is needed.
Just 1 minute into, what was the final period, Kane works the puck around the boards spotting Seabrook at the blue line. Seabrook lets a rocket go from the point, it beats Rinne with a Bickell screen. Hawks win, Hawks win and take a 3-1 series lead with game 5 in Nashville on Thursday night.
-Nashville led in shots 52-48
-Hawks go for 0/4 on the power play and Nashville 1/3.
-Keith led all NHL players with 46:19 of TOI. Hjalmarsson was closest at 37:34. Lowest was Timonen with 12:18.
-Bickell and Seabrook led all hawks with 6 hits each.
-Keith led all Hawks with 7 shots on net.
Saad Toews Hossa Keith Rozsival
Versteeg Richards Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Bickell Vermette Sharp Timonen Seabrook
Desjardins Kruger Shaw