Ah, the lengthy overtime game. It’s a joy to watch for anyone who’s a fan of the game, albeit probably nerve-wracking for certain teams’ fans.
And they’re exhausting for the players, although wins certainly make them feel somewhat better. So the Blackhawks were feeling happy tired instead of deflated in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, moments after Brent Seabrook’s overtime shot gave them a 3-2 triple-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators.
Now it’s time for ice packs, fluids, food and plenty of sleep – for the players, not us. Before we pack up, we bring you Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory, which gives them a 3-1 lead in this first-round series.
1. Brent Seabrook capitalizes again. He said this overtime game-winner may rank higher than the one he had against Detroit back in 2013. We’re guessing that’s mainly fatigue talking, but there’s no doubt this was big. The Blackhawks didn’t want to go back to Nashville tied 2-2 in this series; it’ll be hard enough to get that fourth game off the Predators, even up 3-1. Seabrook’s winner gave the Blackhawks momentum going into a hostile building.
2. Antoine Vermette breaks through. Vermette’s face was a mix of joy and relief on Wednesday morning, a few hours after he scored his first postseason goal in a Blackhawks uniform. “It’s a sense of happiness and relief. But that being said, it was early, we were focused, we a lot of work ahead and you want to keep playing,” said Vermette. He played just under 20 minutes, winning 12 of 20 faceoffs.
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3. Duncan Keith, marathon man. As coach Joel Quenneville said, if you see anyone else log 46 minutes, 19 seconds over five-plus periods of hockey, you may be stunned. With Keith, the Blackhawksaren’t surprised. Said Quenneville, “a lot of guys at the end of the night, look at the sheet and say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of ice time.’ Other guys it doesn’t phase a bit. I think we’re accustomed to him playing significant minutes in games like this.” Keith had a team-high seven shots on goal, two hits and three blocked shots.
4. Scott Darling adds to the résumé. Darling was understandably tired after this on, and a little sore – “wearing skates for four or five hours doesn’t feel good,” he said. Nevertheless Darling was great once again, stopping 50 of 52 shots for his third postseason victory. He’s come into a playoff game in relief, he’s started his first NHL postseason contest and he’s now gone wire to wire in a triple-overtime game. He’s handling it all very well.
5. Does the momentum last? Let’s not kid ourselves: the Blackhawks may be up 3-1 but this series has been incredibly close. The Predators could easily have the same best-of-seven lead right now. It’s been a game of inches, and the Blackhawks head to Nashville with a chance to close this one out. Do they do that? They’ll have to ride this momentum to do so and dredge up some energy. But don’t be surprised if Game 5 is as riveting as Games 1 and 3 have been, and expect Nashville to come with everything it has left to give.