Blackhawks rally to beat Predators, advance to second round


Blackhawks rally to beat Predators, advance to second round

Duncan Keith was just looking for some space, any space through which to take a shot.

Much like in Game 1, the puck was with the Blackhawks defenseman at a critical time. And just like in Game 1, when Keith sent the Blackhawks home happy with a victory, on Saturday he sent them into the second round.

Keith scored with 3:38 remaining in regulation as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Nashville Predators, 4-3, in Game 6 of their first-round series on Saturday night. The Blackhawks won the series 4-2 and will await the winner of the Minnesota-St. Louis Series. The Wild lead the Blues 3-2 in their series; Game 6 is Sunday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn.

[WATCH: Duncan Keith sends Blackhawks to second round with late goal]

Corey Crawford returned to the net midway through the first period and stopped all 13 shots he saw for the victory. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks looked like they could’ve scored a few times before they finally did get the winner. Then Jonathan Toews won a puck battle along the boards and passed back to Keith, who faked a shot, faked another shot, then fired past Pekka Rinne.

“We knew we had them on the run in their zone. I just wanted to be patient there and make sure on my shot, knowing they may be gassed there with the puck in their end,” Keith said. “I had some room to make a few fakes, try to get a lane — I think (Marian Hossa) was in the high slot — and just try to get it on net. I’m not sure [Rinne] saw it all the way.”

Crawford saw it from his end.

“Oh my God, that was probably one of the better games I’ve seen him play,” Crawford said of Keith. “That last play, that goal, that’s probably one of the better plays you’ll see from a defenseman. That was crazy. And before that the spin-o-ramas and it was just a great play by him, definitely.”

[MORE: Five Things from Game 6: Blackhawks top guys bring top games]

Keith getting the game-winner wasn’t the only similarity between Games 1 and 6. These two, outside of the first going to double overtime and this one ending in regulation, were near carbon copies of each other. The Blackhawks had a shoddy start to both. They started down in both — 3-0 in Game 1 and 3-1 through the first 11-plus minutes tonight. Their starting goaltender got pulled in both; Scott Darling, who came in for Crawford in Game 1, was pulled tonight after allowing three goals on 12 shots — oh, and that’s what Crawford allowed in that Game 1 first period. James Neal scored twice and Matt Cullen scored, prompting the change.

Crawford’s return was met with cheers from the United Center. It was also met with a better defensive performance. The Predators had 12 shots on Darling in the first 11:16 of the game. They had just 13 the next two-plus periods.

“I thought we were horrible to start the game, absolutely dreadful,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We get beat 1-on-2, a 1-on-1… I wasn’t blaming the goalie. But it was easy to get Crow back in there.”

As the defense tightened, the offense opened up. Sharp scored to make it 3-1 not long before the goalie change. Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 Predators 58 seconds after Crawford entered the game. Then Kane scored to tie it 3-3 with just six seconds remaining in the first period.

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“It was a good faceoff and Duncs just left it on a tee for me there,” Kane said. “Big plays like that, when you score at the end of periods, you can get momentum. It definitely a good feeling to tie it up after the first.”

It was a better feeling to wrap this one up at home in Game 6. It wasn’t how the Blackhawks drew it up; they know they can’t start games like that. But they found a way to win in another adverse situation, much like they did in Game 1.

“[They are] something we can work on, obviously, our starts. That’s a mental thing more than anything,” Keith said. “We knew there was lots of time and we have confidence in our ability as a team. We showed that.”


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak


Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.