RECAP: Secondary scoring gave Preds early jump, parade to penalty box costs them the game

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
RECAP: Secondary scoring gave Preds early jump, parade to penalty box costs them the game

What a hockey game.

In front of the mostly gold 17,225 fans at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks put on quite a show that ended in a 4-3 double overtime win by the Blackhawks.

Chicago now has a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Coming into the postseason, one of the keys to Nashville’s success was said to be secondary scoring. It had virtually disappeared down the stretch but, on Wednesday night, the Preds got to cross that off their checklist early when Colin Wilson flew down the wing and potted a laser over Corey Crawford’s shoulder to open the scoring.

Then, roughly 11 minutes later, Viktor Stalberg would capitalize on a Crawford mistake. He corralled the puck behind the Chicago net and, with the netminder scrambling to get back into position, backhanded it over the line to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

But they weren’t done yet. Using a power play, Seth Jones took a routine wrist shot from the point and Wilson deflected it in for his second of the contest to give the home team a three goal cushion.

“We got off to a good start,” forward Matt Cullen said. “We were jumpin’ and we were fortunate to get a few goals there and get the lead.”

The first period was the best Nashville has played in a long time. They skated hard, finished their checks, dominated puck possession, controlled the pace and, of course, scored goals. Essentially, they did everything they wanted to do in the opening frame and, better yet, they had a 3-0 lead to show for it.

Chicago made some adjustments during the intermission, however, and Scott Darling took Crawford’s place between the pipes. Whether the change was a reflection of his starting goalie or just to give his team a wake up call, Chicago Head Coach Joel Quenneville pushed the right buttons. The Blackhawks responded with a dominating period of their own, resulting in three goals – two of which were on the power play – and a tied hockey game.

“We started taking penalties,” Wilson said. “We can’t be doing that, especially when we’re up 3-0. We have to get back to it.”

“We just kept going to the box,” captain Shea Weber said. “You know they’re going to score eventually and they did. It’s something we talked about, and we just have to make sure we do it.”

The Predators started to tilt the ice back their way in the third but couldn’t find the back of the net. As a result, the teams went to an overtime session that was full of drama.

Brad Richards got called for high-sticking midway through the first overtime and Nashville went on the power play. During one particular sequence, they did everything they wanted to but the Ryan Ellis one-timer was absolutely robbed by Darling as he slide post-to-post to make the save.

A few minutes later, Taylor Beck was bursting into the Chicago zone on a partial breakaway but was hauled down by Duncan Keith. No call was made on the play but, moments later at the other end of the ice, Jones got called for tripping. Chicago failed to score on their golden opportunity as well and Wednesday night’s playoff opener would need double overtime before it would end.

At just about the midway point of the second OT session, Keith wristed a lazy shot on net from the blueline that got past Rinne to give Chicago the 4-3 victory and the 1-0 series lead.

“It’s Game One, we would’ve loved to have it and we felt like we kinda deserved it but we didn’t get it,” Cullen said. “We’ll go back to work and get after it for Game Two.”

The aforementioned Game Two is on Friday night in Nashville and, thanks to TV, the puck drops at 8:30pm Central.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:16 remaining in regulation):
1. “GWG”
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Jonathan Toews (CHI)

1. Duncan Keith (CHI)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Jonathan Toews (CHI)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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