The Chicago Blackhawks found some way to pull out of Nashville with a victory on Wednesday night. Three goals by the Predators’ Colin Wilson (2) and Viktor Stalberg in the first period seemed to all but close out Chicago from getting out alive.
But we forget how quickly things can change in hockey.
Chicago returned the favor in the second period — almost immediately — as scores from Niklas Hjalmarrson, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews made the game a 3-3 tie.
They did this with several minutes still to spare in the period.
The final frame didn’t consist of any scoring, but the level of hockey had clearly elevated compared to the beginning of the game. Instead of being in control and establishing home dominance, Nashville was clearly the weaker squad that was trying to desperately get out of the building and the situation.
But the Blackhawks love nothing more than to make opponents suffer. And don’t worry, it was a slow death.
Overtime came into the picture but twenty extra minutes did nothing for the scoreboard as the anxiety built in Bridgestone Arena that calls Nashville, Tennessee home.
But worrying did them no good. They had plenty to worry about after the fact.
Double overtime was double trouble as now both teams were taking a serious toll to their stamina. It took nearly eight minutes into the second overtime before Duncan Keith found the back of the net and elevated Chicago to unforeseen glory.
The best part for the Blackhawks is that this was a road win.
Instead of barely getting out alive in an expected home win and being scared by Nashville, Chicago was able to be the bad news bears for Predators fans galore. This game seems to mirror, nearly perfectly, how the regular season fared for Nashville.
After starting off strong and showing promising signs of consistency, the victories began to get seriously sputtered and spread apart. Wins few and far between allowed the St. Louis Blues to all but rob the Predators of a division title and a better playoff seed.
We now are seeing the consequences.
Now Nashville must win a game on the road (assuming they don’t lose another home game the rest of the series), and getting a victory in Chicago is no easy task — for any team, especially the Predators.
The Blackhawks have a very historic and established home performance and they always seem to play better with their fans behind them (as expected), but this is bad news for a Nashville team that was one of the best teams in the league.
For all intents and purposes, the Blackhawks need to take advantage of this golden opportunity in their opening series.
A win in Game 2 on Friday night would all but seal the deal for a series win for Chicago. Puck drops at 9:30 pm ET.