The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-2, on April 19 to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-2, on April 19 to take a 2-1 series lead in their Stanley Cup Western Conference first-round series.
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According to NHL.com's Brian Hedger, 26-year-old Blackhawks rookie goaltender Scott Darling recorded an impressive 35 saves in his first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff start. The Blackhawks also scored three goals in the second period to pull away for good.
Darling checked in for regular starter Corey Crawford in Game 1 after the latter allowed three goals on 12 shots, per Hedger. Darling had 42 saves the rest of the way as Chicago won, 4-3, in double overtime.
Andrew Desjardins scored at the 14:48 mark of the first period off an assist by Marian Hossa to put the Blackhawks on the board. The Predators' Mike Ribeiro scored 30 seconds later to knot the count at 1 apiece, per NHL.com.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored with just 36 seconds gone by in the second period. Again, Hossa was credited with the assist, per NHL.com. Nashville struck back just 22 seconds later on defensman Mattias Ekholm goal.
However, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook scored the Blackhawks' next two goals of the period to finish off the night's scoring, per NHL.com.
Hedger stresses the Predators outshot the Blackhawks (37-30) for the third consecutive game but still fell short. It was Chicago's first and fourth lines that ultimately made the difference in this one.
Hossa discussed with Hedger the importance of Desjardin's first goal:
"That was a really important first goal. [Desjardins] just jumped into Game 3, and I think had a really strong game for us. Guys like that give us more energy and he's a guy who plays a physical game and that kind of brings energy."
Darling, a Lemont, Ill. native, talked to Hedger about his excitment coming into the pivotal contest on Sunday:
"It was obviously a little nerve-wracking, but exciting at the same time. It couldn't have been a better game from the team to help me in my first playoff start. Every time I get to step on the ice at the United Center, I'm lucky. Every game is exciting.
"The fans were unbelieveable. It was the loudest stadium I've ever been a part of in my life. The whole game the fans were roaring. It's an amazing experience to be on the ice for that."
For his part, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't comment on Darling possibly starting Game 4 on Tuesday. However, he was really impressed with how the rookie netminder played big in Game 3, per NHL.com:
"We'll talk about it, but certainly he did everything he could to put himself in the net. I thought he was rock solid today and did everything he could to get us the win. He was square, he was big and controlled a lot of pucks around the net as well."
His counterpart, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette, told NHL.com Darling's goaltending and the Blackhawks' speed enabled them to clinch Game 3:
"We put a lot of attempts at the net and lots of quality scoring chances. [Darling] made some big saves, some we probably wished we had another look at. They played a fast game [today].
"I think it caught us a couple of times, even when we had pucks on the walls. It seemed like their speed from behind caused some quick turnovers, and they were able to come back at us."
The Predators were without captain Shea Weber and center Mike Fisher, who both have lower-body injuries. Second-year defenseman Seth Jones took over Weber's spot to start alongside Roman Josi, per NHL.com.
Josi told Hedger his team just couldn't capitalize on whatever opportunities they had in Game 3:
"Shea's a big player, so I think we're going to miss him on our back end. I don't know, I thought we played a pretty good game. It could have gone the other way, too.
"We had a lot of chances and couldn't capitalize on our chances in the second period. I don't think we played that poor in the second. We had a lot of chances, too. They just capitalized."
Game 4 is set for Tuesday, April 21, at the United Center in Chicago, Ill. at 9:30 p.m. ET, per Hedger.
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