CHICAGO – Marian Hossa sat in the penalty box for what seemed like the longest time?five minutes to be exact?and when he finally got out Saturday, he quickly found the puck and sent the Chicago Blackhawks to an inspiring victory.
Hossa scored 4:07 into overtime after Patrick Kane’s short-handed goal had tied the game with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation as the Blackhawks rallied and beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 for a 3-2 series lead.
Kane’s goal and the Blackhawks ability to kill yet another Predators power play gave Hossa a reprieve after he had knocked Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis into the boards and drew a major penalty. Hamhuis, who was shoved from behind by Hossa, stayed on the ice for about a minute before he was able to get up and slowly skate off.
“I tried to go for the puck,” Hossa said. “The guy turned his back to me. You don’t want to hit a player that way, but I couldn’t stop my motion.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz compared the hit to one that Washington’s Alex Ovechkin put on Chicago’s Brian Campbell last month, breaking Campbell’s collarbone and resulting in a two-game suspension for Ovechkin.
“I don’t even know the difference looking at the two. The league will handle it. I trust the league’s judgment. They’ve been fair all the time,” Trotz said. “It’s unfortunate Hossa comes out and scores the winning goal. Ironic how that works out, but that’s the way it is.”
Chicago can advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a win at Nashville on Monday night.
The Blackhawks blew a 3-1 lead Saturday, and the Predators went ahead 4-3 with two third-period goals by Martin Erat.
With Nashville protecting its lead late and on the major power play created by Hossa’s penalty, Kane backhanded in a rebound off a shot by Jonathan Toews to tie it with his third goal of the series. Although the Blackhawks were short-handed, they negated Nashville’s skating advantage by pulling goalie Antti Niemi.
“Sometimes you catch a break,” Kane said. “Five-on-five with the goalie pulled you’re trying to do everything you can to score a goal.”
Kane called the clutch goal the best of his career.
“Nothing tops it,” he said. “Thirteen seconds left to tie and keep us in the series, probably. Going to Nashville down 3-2, that would be a tough game to win.”
After the game went to overtime, the Blackhawks killed the remaining 3:57 of Hossa’s penalty. The Predators are the only team in this year’s playoffs without a power-play goal. Their latest failure with the game on the line pushed the drought to 0-for-21 with the advantage.
Hossa hit the ice after his penalty expired and put himself in position to win the game. He got the puck on the left side of the net after a shot from teammate Brent Sopel appeared to deflect to him off the stick of Nashville’s Joel Ward.
Hossa then slid a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne for his second career post-season overtime goal. This one sent the crowd at the United Center into pandemonium.
“When I saw the puck coming to me, I just tried to put it in. What a relief. A huge win,” Hossa said.
“It hit our forward’s stick and it just deflected to the guy on the other side, whoever he was, and he put it in. I didn’t even know it was Hossa. It happened so quick,” Rinne said.
“It’s disappointing. It hurts. Now it’s going to be a big test on Monday. It’s real emotional right now.”
Andrew Ladd, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Tomas Kopecky also had goals for Chicago in regulation.
David Legwand had a goal and an assist, and Ward added a short-handed tally for the Predators.
Rinne had 27 saves and Niemi made 17. Nashville ended up 0-for-4 on the power play.
Erat took a nice crossing pass from Denis Grebeshkov, was wide open on the edge of the right circle, and beat Niemi on the stick side?his fourth goal of the series?to put the Predators ahead at 11:39.
Less than two minutes into the third period, Erat scored a game-tying goal from in front as he broke in and took a nifty pass from J.P. Dumont in the right circle.
Kopecky’s goal, seconds after a Nashville power play ended, gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead at 16:24 of the second period.
Kopecky came out of the penalty box and was skating across the rink, but when Hossa cleared the puck up the ice, Kopecky caught up with it, skated in, faked Rinne and pushed in a backhand.
Nashville responded quickly a minute later with a short-handed goal by Ward, who took a nice pass from Legwand on a 3-on-1 and scored to cut the Chicago lead back to one.
NOTES: The Predators played their fourth straight game without leading goal scorer Patric Hornqvist, who has been out with an upper body injury. D Grebeshkov made his first appearance in a game since sustaining a groin injury on March 7 and had two assists. RW wing Jordin Tootoo played 3:15 despite taking 45 stitches after being hit in the face by a puck in Game 4.