It took three extra periods of play, but Brent Seabrook's goal early in the third overtime session gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 4 on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Brandon Saad and Antoine Vermette both scored for the Blackhawks, and Scott Darling made 50 saves as the Blackhawks seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Predators tried to come out of the gate with a head full of steam, but the Blackhawks repelled just about every opportunity that came up. Viktor Stalberg did have a good shot from the slot early, and the Predators had a 2-on-1 rush as well, but defense and goaltending saved the day for Chicago as they kept the game scoreless.
At about the halfway point of the period, the Predators got a power play chance thanks to a call against Bryan Bickell, and they took advantage to take the lead. Ryan Ellis got the puck at the point as the Predators moved it around the zone, and Colin Wilson did the rest as he set a screen on Scott Darling and then deflected the shot home to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
Later in the frame, the Blackhawks seemed to finally start getting their offense together, and they scored to tie things up. Michal Rozsival made a great play along the boards to win the puck, and then he fired a hard pass through the slot toward the front of the net. Antoine Vermette managed to get his stick blade on the shot, and it fluttered past Pekka Rinne to make it a 1-1 game through 20 minutes of play.
The Blackhawks continued their frenetic pace early in the second period, but good chances by Vermette and Brad Richards (who put a shot off the post as he tried to put home a rebound opportunity) fell by the wayside.
After that initial Chicago push, Nashville grabbed control of puck possession time and refused to yield the edge back for the remainder of the period. Craig Smith and Matt Cullen each had good opportunities in close to the net, but the Hawks’ defense came up big. Smith was stopped by Darling at the top of the crease, and Cullen’s chance was stymied as Rozsival made a solid defensive play to break it up.
Late in the period, the Predators finally capitalized on their momentum and took the lead back. Duncan Keith made a bad play as he tried to cycle the puck up the boards, and then when it came back into the zone and skittered across the ice, he flipped the puck right onto James Neal’s stick, and the Predators forward didn’t miss as he gave his team a 2-1 edge after the second period.
The Blackhawks did a nice job early in the third period as Joel Quenneville reshuffled his lines, but Rinne kept the score at 2-1. Patrick Kane had the best chance out of everyone as he picked up a loose puck in the face-off circle, but his shot hit Rinne high and Bryan Bickell was unable to put home the rebound.
After the Blackhawks missed out on a power play opportunity, their even strength skill came to the forefront, and they tied things up with about nine minutes to go in regulation. Duncan Keith made the play happen as he fired a pass up the ice, and Marian Hossa received it beautifully. Breaking into the zone, Hossa dropped a pass back to Brandon Saad, and he rifled in a wrist shot just inside the far post to make it a 2-2 game.
Over the final minutes of regulation, the two teams exchanged chances, but the Hawks dominated the final stages. Andrew Desjardins nearly gave his team the lead off a gorgeous feed across the netmouth from Marcus Kruger, but the puck skipped just a little bit and prevented the shot from going on target. Hossa and Saad nearly converted on a 2-on-1 rush with less than a minute remaining, but Rinne made an incredible save to force overtime.
In that overtime period, both teams had some incredible chances, but the goaltenders stood tall. A combined 23 shots were put on net between the sides in the period, with Rinne making 10 saves and Darling scampering all over the crease to stop 13 shots, including a couple of really good shots from Neal in the slot that forced double overtime.
Neither team was able to score in a double overtime that saw both sides start to lose some steam, but the Hawks finished things off only a minute into the third overtime period. After moving the puck around the zone, Kane found Seabrook out at the point. Bryan Bickell provided a screen in front, and Seabrook's shot evaded Rinne as the Hawks walked out of the United Center with the victory.
The Blackhawks will try to finish off the series on Thursday night in Nashville, with puck drop of Game 5 scheduled for 8:30 p.m.