The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 in overtime at the United Center in a game that will test the Pred's character when they play game six on Monday night in Nashville.
Marion Hossa scored the game winner 4:06 in to overtime, nine seconds after leaving the penalty box after serving five minutes for an infraction that many felt deserved an ejection.
The Predators appeared to have won the game in regulation, but Patrick Kane tied the game with 14 seconds left on a short-handed goal after the Preds had come back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead.
Chicago's other goals came from Andrew Ladd, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Tomas Kopecky. Marty Erat scored twice for the Preds,while Joel Ward and David Legwand also added goals.
Antti Niemi was the winner in net, faceing only 16 shots in regulation. Pekka Rinne took the loss giving up five goals on 32 Hawk's shots. Neither goal was particularly outstanding in the effort.
The game started with fast and furious Western Conference style back and forth action. The Hawks were keeping the play in the Predator zone early and winning most of the battles for the puck.
Out of the blue, at 6:23 David Legwand wristed a shot from the left face-off circle into the upper corner of the net past Niemi to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward received the helpers. Ward also appears to have had Niemi completely screened.
The Blackhawks tied the game 1-1 at 9:57 when Andrew Ladd picked up a loose puck on a rebound from a Brent Seabrook shot that Rinne was unable to corral.
At 14:43, after a defensive breakdown by the Predators, the Blackhawks went ahead 2-1 when the Preds turned it over to Niklas Hjalmarsson as they tried to take the puck out of the Hawks zone. Rinne was screened by a couple of players from each team and had little chance to stop the shot.
A real oddity occurred at 16:27, when play was delayed for a few minutes when the puck could not be found in Niemi's gear after a shot by Colin Wilson.
The period ended with the Hawks leading in shots 10-4 and 17-11 on the Corsi. The Preds out hit the Hawks 16-10 in a very physical period but were no match for the Hawk's offensive play.
The second period started with the first penalty of the game when Dave Bolland tripped J P Dumont 26 seconds into the period. The Preds were unable to get a shot on the man advantage.
The Hawks went on the power play for the first time at 5:37 when David Legwand was called for interference. The PP was cut short for the Hawks when Patrick Kane was called for interference at 6:37 to set up four on four play for 60 seconds.
Things deteriorated for the Preds on a bad call at 7:19 when Dan Hamhuis slid under Jonathan Toews and was called for tripping. A make up call came at 8:11 when Brent Seabrook was called for interference. Neither team was able to take advantage of the flurry of penalties.
The Hawks were called for two many men on the ice at 14:14 to give the Preds a chance on the man advantage in a game where they only had five shots up until that point in the contest. The Preds managed a shot but no goals. That brought their power play success down to 0-21 for the series.
Disaster struck for the Preds at 16:34 when Tomas Kopecky jumped out of the penalty box and took a pass from Marion Hossa and completely faked out Pekka Rinne on a breakaway to put Chicago up 3-1. It was one of Rinne's worst one on one efforts of the season.
Jerred Smithson was called for hooking at 17:00 in the second when he interfered with Kane. 31 seconds into the penalty, Joel Ward took a pass from David Legwand on a breakaway and put it past Niemi bring the score to 3-2 and to give the Preds a fighting chance on a short-handed goal.
As the second period ended, it was amazing that it was still a one goal game. The Preds were out shot 14-4 in the period and were bested 23-8 on the Corsi side.
Amazingly, the Predators tied game 3-3 at 1:34 in the third when the Preds had the Hawks goal surrounded with heavy traffic and J P Dumont passed the puck to Marty Erat who got the puck past Niemi.
Chicago had another power play chance at 5:50 when Legwand was called for tripping Hossa. The Hawks were unable to convert.
In true "Predator hockey" fashion, the Preds came out of the ashes to go ahead 4-3 at 11:39 when Denis Grebeshkov made a perfect pass to Mary Erat who played the puck off both skates and then lifted the puck past Niemi.
Play was fast and furious after the Preds got the lead with pressure at both ends of the ice. Chicago pulled Niemi after a time out with 1:31 left in the game.
Chicago committed a major error at 18:57 when Marion Hossa shoved Dan Hamhuis into the boards on a play that may receive an additional look by the league for supplemental discipline. Hamhuis was unable to return to the game from the injury.
The Predators went on a 5:00 man advantage as a result of the infraction just needing to keep the Hawks out of the goal for the final 1:03 minutes of play. After several poor decisions by the Predators, Patrick Kane scored a short-handed goal with 14 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The first mistake was Marty Erat making a horrible pass from behind the Hawks net that resulted in the Hawks getting the puck into the Preds zone. Sloppy defense and a rebound given up by Rinne that ended up being put in the net by Joel Ward and/or Kane completed the nightmare finish for the Preds.
For the third period, the Preds out shot the Hawks 8-6 with the Hawks leading the Corsi 16-14 for the period as they played desperately down the stretch.
The Predators started the overtime with 3:57 of power play carryover. The Preds outshot the Hawks 5-1 as they failed to convert on the man advantage.
As the power play wound down, the Hawks took the puck into the Predator zone and Marion Hossa sprinted from the penalty box to the net and scored on a pass from Brent Sopel nine seconds after he left the box to make the final score 5-devastating loss for the Predators.
Storylines From The Game
Preds Blew Chance to Steal the Game...
On paper, at the end of two periods, no one could imagine that it was a one goal game as the Preds had been out shot 24-8 and were down in the Corsi numbers 40-19. The Hawks had dominated play and the Preds were non-competitive on offense.
It was even more unbelievable that the Preds came to life in the third period and out played the Hawks down the stretch. Bad decisions by the Predators led to the game tying and game winning goals.
Barry Trotz explained it best in his post game comments when he said that Chicago dominated the first two periods and the Preds had a chance to steal the game but failed to play good defense and take care of the puck when it mattered.
Power Failure on Special Teams...
The Predator's anemic power play continued and is now o-22 for the post-season. In 3:57 of power play time in overtime, they played as well on the man advantage as they had in a while but still could not take advantage of the extra attacker to put the game away.
The Preds did get a goal from Joel Ward in a short handed situation, but that was countered by Patrick Kane's short-hander that sent the game into overtime.
When Marion Hossa shoved Dan Hamhuis into the boards that put Hamhuis out of the game. Hossa received a five minute minor but was not removed from the game.
The play was similar to others hat had resulted in game misconducts and suspensions including the one where Alexander Ovechkin sidelined the Hawks Brian Campbell for an extended period.
Adding to the controversial nature of the hit was the clincher in that Hossa left the box and was there at the blue ice circle to score the game winner. It will be interesting to see what, if anything else, comes from the situation.
Will the Preds Rebound for Game Six...
The Predators showed great character in coming back to tie and subsequently lead a game in which they had clearly been outplayed for two periods.
An even greater test of character will be how the team reacts being on the short end of two dramatic finishes that saw them give up a lead that they had fought for so diligently and then to lose so abruptly in overtime.
We will see if Barry Trotz can convince the team to come back one more time and give 110% with their backs against the wall in game six on Monday night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass