Wow. Just ... wow. Everybody still with us?
The Chicago Blackhawks just stole a hockey game. On the road. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Only one of those things is a sentence. Regardless of my grammatical woes, the Blackhawks showed up in Nashville for Game 1 against the Predators and walked right back out with a win that absolutely should have been the home team's. Instead, your Blackhawks are up 1-0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Of course, anyone who tuned in before the second period knows that this one had absolute disaster written all over it.
The Predators had the Blackhawks' number early on. They were knocking them around with their characteristic physical game, maintaining an edge in possession as a result. The Perds registered twice as many shots in the opening frame, despite an even 17 for each side in the Corsi department. As a result of their shot advantage, and some more turnover woes for the Blackhawks, the Preds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
The first came just over six minutes into the period, as Michal Rozsival found himself completely owned by Colin Wilson, flailing around in his own end and allowing the Preds to take the lead. Viktor Stalberg took advantage of an ugly misplay by Corey Crawford to put the puck in the open net, before Wilson added another on the power play stemming from a Kimmo Timonen penalty.
It was a dominant period that had many on the Hawks side ready to pack it up and head home. And yet, this team that has shown us so much in the past few years, in terms of their resilience, had something to say about the outcome of Game 1, as putrid as their first period was.
Scott Darling showed up between the pipes as Corey Crawford's replacement, in a move that was more motivational tactic than anything. And yet, it paid off in a way that even Joel Quenneville couldn't have anticipated. But we'll talk about that later.
Niklas Hjalmarsson got the Blackhawks on the board in the first two minutes of the second period, finding a spot in the slot and firing it past Pekka Rinne. Teuvo Teravainen set him up with a sweet pass, because that's what he does.
From there, the power play went to work. It's incredible how much more competent the Hawks looked with the man advantage with Patrick Kane back in the fold. Kane added his first of two assists on a Patrick Sharp power play goal to bring the Blackhawks within one. Almost 3/4 of the way through the period, Jonathan Toews took a Kane pass and powered it past Rinne from close range from the equalizer.
And that was the offense for both sides. They played the remainder of the second without incident, and an entire third period without either side finding the back of the net. At 7:49 of double-overtime, Duncan Keith fired a slapshot that made its way past Rinne for the 4-3 win that seemed absolutely impossible not a few hours ago.
The primary reason that the Hawks were able to reach that point, especially with key minutes being handed to Michal Rozsival, was Scott Darling. Crawford wasn't exactly on, but he was also the fall guy for the team in front of him demonstrating some absolutely atrocious play. Nonetheless, Darling came in and became a playoff star on national television, turning in an effort that featured 42 saves, including some game savers in the third period that allowed the Blackhawks to reach overtime.
That'll surely lead to talk of a goaltending controversy, and to an extent you can understand it, just based off of how well he played. Nonetheless, expect to see Corey Crawford back in there on Friday. Also, expect to see Michal Rozsival, as unfortunate as that may be.
That latter fact is actually hilarious, given that Quenneville rationalized his benching of Antoine Vermette by performance, only to watch his guy on the blue line drag his corpse around the ice for 20 minutes. But hey, we'll definitely see him back out there on Friday.
Regardless, enjoy the win. It's one that wasn't necessarily deserved early on, but the Hawks were able to steal on the road. These types of games are the ones that help contribute to deep playoff runs. Now if they could find that second period rhythm just a bit earlier on Friday, our nerves and our blood pressure should be in a lot better shape.
Who am I kidding? This is playoff hockey. That doesn't happen.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.