The Chicago Blackhawks went down early in Game 1 to the Nashville Predators, but four unanswered goals led them to a 4-3 victory in double overtime.
Duncan Keith ended up securing the game-winner in the extra session, and Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Patrick Sharp also added tallies as the Hawks grabbed victory on the road.
The Blackhawks got off to a really solid start in the game, but the Predators ultimately wrested control of the tempo back, and they got on the board first. With Michal Rozsival drifting toward the middle of the ice, Wilson drove past him along the boards and fired a wicked wrist shot past Crawford to make it a 1-0 game.
Things nearly went from bad to worse for the Blackhawks as were sent to the penalty kill thanks to Andrew Shaw. In spite of some good chances from James Neal and Filip Forsberg, Nashville couldn’t quite pot a goal, and they remained ahead by just one tally.
With less than three minutes to go in the period, the Blackhawks conceded another goal. This time it was Crawford committing an egregious sin, as he came out of the net to play the puck and was unable to as it remained in the restricted area. Viktor Stalberg ended up stealing the puck and flicking a wraparound shot into the goal to make it a 2-0 game.
The disastrous period wasn’t over just yet for the Blackhawks however as Nashville scored again just before intermission. Seth Jones got the puck at the blue line as the Predators skated on a power play, and his slap shot was deflected by Wilson as he picked up his second goal of the contest and made it a 3-0 contest.
Darling came in for the beginning of the second period to relieve Crawford, and the change in mojo seemed to do the trick as the Blackhawks scored. Teuvo Teravainen got ahold of the puck behind the Hawks’ net on a 4-on-4 sequence, and Hjalmarsson made a brilliant play to push into the seam in the middle of the ice. Teravainen found the defenseman in stride, and Hjalmarsson muscled a shot past Pekka Rinne to put the Blackhawks on the board.
After a series of penalties to both teams, the Blackhawks eventually were able to get a 5-on-3 power play, and they converted almost immediately. Marian Hossa made a tremendous play to keep the puck in the zone along the boards, and eventually it worked its way to Patrick Kane. Kane ripped a pass across the zone, and although he was stopped on his first attempt, Sharp hammered home the rebound to cut the lead to 3-2.
After another Nashville penalty put the Blackhawks back on the power play, the visitors tied things up late in the second period. After some solid puck movement, Toews made a quick move inside along the goal line and jammed the puck into the net under Rinne’s leg pad, and as the game headed into the second intermission it was knotted up at 3-3.
The Blackhawks came out firing to start the third period as they looked to continue their momentum, but they couldn’t quite get anything home. A Mike Ribeiro penalty gave them a golden opportunity to score, but several shots skipped just wide of the cage as the Hawks dominated the pace of play.
The Predators got a power play of their own near the halfway mark of the period, and suddenly Darling was forced into the action in a big way. He made a couple of huge saves during the ensuing two minutes, including a post-to-post save on a shot by Ryan Ellis to keep things tied up.
As the third period rolled on, Darling made another series of saves to help force overtime. First it was Ribeiro feeling ripped off as Darling made a save at the near post, and a few moments later Roman Josi’s shot attempt was kicked out. Finally Shea Weber had a chance in the closing seconds of regulation to take the lead for Nashville, but Darling used his blocker to knock it away and force overtime.
The teams both got off to solid starts in the overtime period, with chances galore coming as soon as the puck dropped. Hossa skipped a shot just wide of the net early on, and then Darling made a great save on Forsberg. Versteeg then blew a 2-on-1 chance as his attempted pass across was smothered by the defense, and Darling made the score stick as he made another huge stop on Forsberg.
Over the last half of the overtime period, both teams got power play chances, but neither side could convert. There were more chances for both sides in those minutes, with Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane each getting quality opportunities for the Hawks, but nothing would go in as the game remained tied after the first overtime period.