In order to achieve their mission—"One Goal," a Stanley Cup—the Blackhawks had to win 16 times during the playoffs of 2010. But if there was a landmark victory before the clincher in Philadelphia, participants likely would point to Saturday afternoon, April 24, at the United Center.
Down and apparently out, the Blackhawks salvaged a 5-4 overtime victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal. It was “not supposed to happen,” as Eddie Olczyk recalls, but the Miracle on Madison Street will happen again Thursday night at 7 p.m. when Comcast SportsNet airs another chapter in “Chicago Blackhawks Classics.”
Marian Hossa, after serving a five-minute major that could have spelled doom, scored 4:07 into overtime to afford the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series. Late in the third period, with Nashville ahead, 4-3, Hossa was banished for boarding Dan Hamhuis. The Blackhawks, 63 seconds away from facing possible elimination in Game 6 at Nashville, rescued a 4-4 tie when Patrick Kane tallied a shorthanded goal with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation. “Biggest of my life,” gushed Kane.
Come June 9, Kane might offer a second opinion, but en route to One Goal, he gave the Blackhawks life in that One Game. “You saw that, and you thought to yourself, something special is happening here,” remarks Pat Foley, the voice of the Blackhawks who joins erstwhile partner Olczyk, host Pat Boyle and Coach Joel Quenneville for Thursday night’s rebroadcast.
After the Blackhawks won their division and finished just one point behind Western Conference champion San Jose, they drew the No. 7 seed, Nashville. They knew it would be no day at the Grand Ole Opry and it wasn’t. The patient and disciplined Predators won the opener in Chicago, and Game 3 at home. Antti Niemi registered shutouts in Games 2 and 4 in his duel with Pekka Rinne, a Finnish countryman also making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
In the gritty Game 5, the Predators, still without a power-play goal in the series, stung the Blackhawks on Joel Ward’s shorthander to draw within 3-2 late in the middle period. Then Martin Erat, separated from his helmet on a mighty check by Brent Seabrook earlier, clicked twice in the third before a nervous crowd of 22,115. When Hossa uncharacteristically fouled Hamhuis, Olczyk theorized on NBC’s national telecast that the Blackhawks’ star might be thrown out of the game. The Predators thought the hit was serious enough. Brian Campbell, a Blackhawks’ defenseman deft at generating offense, was playing only his second game since being injured in mid-March on a similar action by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who was ejected and suspended two games.
Still, all the Predators had to do was kill the clock and eat the puck. But when Erat flung it out from behind Niemi, Jonathan Toews picked it off and initiated a rush on which Kane converted, Toews and Seabrook assisting. The Blackhawks’ bench erupted. However, when sudden death commenced, Hossa stewed in the penalty box as his teammates countered an extended power play. Brent Sopel, Dave Bolland, John Madden, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Niemi were among those who performed the grunt work that facilitated Hossa’s absolution.
“It was a really long five minutes in the box,” said Hossa. “When I saw Patrick score to tie it, I was jumping like a little kid. Another four minutes into overtime, what a relief when I saw the puck coming to me.”
Assisting: Sopel and Bolland, two of the vital components toward a transformative afternoon in franchise history. The Blackhawks didn’t know how this movie was going to end. They still had to win 13 more games. But they had this feeling.
“There are defining moments in every series,” concluded Quenneville. “That was huge.”
Other points of interest for Thursday night’s flashback:
> A precursor to his pal Hossa’s jail break: only seconds after sitting out a penalty for too many men on the ice, Tomas Kopecky leaves the box and scores to provide the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead. Midway in the game, they had 16 shots to just five for Nashville. But as Foley points out, Nashville Coach Barry Trotz shook up his lines in the third period and got results.
> Mike “Doc” Emrick, the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer, mentions the “Welt Brothers” on defense for the Blackhawks. Can you name the two expert shot-blockers?
> The great Doc knows when to defer to another expert. With the first Saturday in May on the horizon, NBC inserts a promotion for the upcoming Kentucky Derby, the world’s most famous horse race. Emrick listens to the read by noted railbird, Eddie Olczyk.
> Listen also for a mention of Adam Clendening, a star on the United States gold medal team in the under-18 world championships. He would be drafted by the Blackhawks in 2011.
> The game is delayed briefly by a missing puck. It’s not on the ice. It hasn’t gone into the stands. None of the officials has it. Where is it?
> After Erat scores to put Nashville ahead, 4-3, midway in the third period, the Predators manufacture a couple serious opportunities to put the Blackhawks away. But Niemi makes crucial saves in regulation and overtime.
> Bloodlines: Gary Suter, an accomplished NHL defenseman who played with the Blackhawks in the 1990s, is the uncle of Ryan, Nashville’s brilliant blue liner. Colin Wilson of the Predators is the son of Carey, drafted by the Blackhawks in 1980. The Blackhawks got that draft choice from the Detroit Red Wings in a 1977 trade for Dennis Hull.
> This pivotal Stanley Cup playoff game was contested with great intensity, as one would expect. And to think, just a couple months prior, several opposing players on the Predators and Blackhawks were teammates in the Winter Olympics at Vancouver. Kane and Ryan Suter were on the United States silver medal squad; Canadians who earned gold were Duncan Keith, Seabrook and Toews of the Blackhawks and Shea Weber of Nashville. Hossa and Kopecky played for Slovakia’s national team. How do you top that experience? The Blackhawk Olympians had an idea, but their path to June went through Nashville.
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