(SportsNetwork.com) – The Chicago Blackhawks hope to ride Scott Darling into
the second round of the playoffs, as they attempt to finish off the Nashville
Predators in Thursday’s Game 5 from Bridgestone Arena.
The Blackhawks hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference
quarterfinals after winning Game 4 in triple overtime by a 3-2 score. It was
the second win beyond regulation in this series for Chicago, which claimed the
series opener at Nashville by a 4-3 count in double overtime.
If there’s any good news for the Preds, it’s they get to fight off elimination
at home after dropping the last two games in Chicago. The clubs last met in
Nashville for Game 2 on Friday when the visiting Blackhawks were blitzed 6-2.
The bad news is this time the Predators won’t be facing Corey Crawford, the
struggling Chicago goaltender who has lost his hold on the starting job to
Darling. Crawford started Games 1 and 2, but Joel Quenneville made the switch
to Darling for the last two meetings and it’s made a huge difference for
While Nashville has torched Crawford for nine goals on 47 shots in this
series, Darling, a 26-year-old rookie, has been a source of constant
frustration for the Preds, stopping 127-of-131 shots for a .969 save
Darling stopped 50-of-52 shots in Tuesday’s Game 4 victory, which ended a
minute into the third OT period when Brent Seabrook beat Pekka Rinne with a
shot from the point.
Seabrook ended the marathon with a big blast from just inside the blue line.
He one-timed a feed from Patrick Kane through a Bryan Bickell screen and past
Rinne, who stopped 45 shots in a losing effort.
“Every game has been on the line, very competitive series,” said Blackhawks
coach Joel Quenneville. “They played hard and we expect them to play even
harder next game.”
Nashville carried a 2-1 lead into the third period but Brandon Saad tied the
contest when he snapped home a wrister from the slot with 8:57 left in
Antoine Vermette added a first-period goal for the Blackhawks.
James Neal and Colin Wilson scored the goals for Nashville, which was shut out
by Darling over the final 63 minutes, 58 seconds of the game.
The crushing loss came in the longest game in Predators history.
“Our guys are a resilient group, said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “They
will not cave. They will not go away quietly.”
If the Predators manage to rebound with a win tonight, they will head back to
Chicago for Game 6 on Saturday.
Nashville played its second straight game without top defenseman and captain
Shea Weber, who didn’t make the trip to Chicago because of a lower-body
injury. Weber is questionable to return for Game 5.
Meanwhile, Predators forward Mike Fisher has sat out the last three games with
a lower-body injury suffered in Game 1. He also is questionable for Tuesday.
The Blackhawks went 3-1-0 versus the Predators this season and won both
meetings at the United Center.
Chicago and Nashville have met once previously in the postseason, a 2010
conference quarterfinal series that Chicago won in six games.