If I told you Antti Niemi and Pekka Rinne would allow a combined seven goals in 20 minutes of Stanley Cup playoff action, would you believe me? That was the situation faced by the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators in a 2010 contest.
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Turns out there was precedent for the wild Game 6 in the 2015 series between these teams, in which they combined for six goals before the first horn sounded. The Blackhawks had trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in that game and eventually pulled out a 4-3 victory.
This 2010 game, the next entry on our countdown of most memorable Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville, didn’t require a comeback from the Blackhawks. But it required a lot of fighting back.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 25: 2010 Western Conference first round, Game 6
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Nashville Predators 3
The TV announcers for this game mention at the start of the highlight package that they’re surprised Marian Hossa is playing in this game. That’s because Hossa was given a five-minute boarding major late in Game 5 (which we haven’t covered yet in this series), and it was uncertain if he’d be suspended for the following game or not. Turns out he wasn’t, and that worked out just fine for Chicago.
Patrick Sharp had the puck down in the corner behind Rinne and fed it to Hossa, who made a brilliant backhand pass between the legs of Nashville’s Jerred Smithson. Duncan Keith received that pass at the point and wound up for a shot that went through Rinne and put Chicago ahead less than seven minutes in. It was Keith’s first goal of the series, and he had been a minus-5 up to that point.
It wouldn’t last long, as defenseman Shea Weber had all day just above the circles off a pass from Jordin Tootoo a few minutes later. Weber traded his monster slapshot for a wrister, which got through traffic and past Niemi to knot this thing up.
But they were just getting started at Bridgestone Arena, which would be fulled of stunned fans a minute after Weber’s tally.
Da Windy City
Jonathan Toews won a faceoff at the dot to Rinne’s left just outside the Chicago offensive zone. Brent Seabrook collected the puck behind the faceoff scrum and attempted to dump it in, but he wound up blasting it off Patrick Kane‘s skate. Rinne, who had gone behind the net to retrieve what he thought would be a dump-in, had to watch in likely horror as the puck rocketed past him and into an open net. The goal went to Kane, and it wasn’t even on live TV for those watching TSN — they were coming back from a replay when the tally occurred. But it certainly happened, and it put the Blackhawks back in front. (I’d show a screenshot, but all of TSN’s angles of the play are awful).
Though the Blackhawks would find out how hard this was later, they wanted to bury Nashville early. Hossa got started with that by bulling his way into the offensive zone as boos rained down from the rafters. He got all the way to the back of Rinne’s net and cut back in front, pushing the puck into a scrum of players at the crease. The puck eventually popped into the air, and Sharp (legally) batted it into the net to push Chicago’s edge to two.
The Preds were back at it about four minutes after Sharp’s goal with Niklas Hjalmarsson in the box for slashing. Guy whose face you constantly want to punch Jason Arnott carried the puck into the offensive zone and sent it back to Weber above the circles. Again, he had plenty of time to let a wrister go, but this one hit traffic in front of Niemi. Still, the Preds stuck with the play, and Patric Hornqvist settled the puck and sent it to Arnott at the back door. He had no contention from Niemi or a Chicago defender and just tapped the puck into the net, cutting the Blackhawks’ ever-tenuous lead to one.
Rinne actually did make a save in this first period, as he came way out to challenge Keith after Kane found him above the circles for a wide-open chance. Keith’s slapper was soaked up by Rinne.
Then, things got a little wild. With just over a minute to go in the first, Dustin Byfuglien was hip-checked perfectly by Dan Hamhuis in Chicago’s offensive zone. The puck was sent back the other way, and Hamhuis would eventually get it at the point. He wired a shot into traffic, and the puck hit Arnott and found a way past Niemi to again tie the game, this time at three, and with less than a minute left in the opening period. Thankfully, this was the last time we’d hear “I Like It, I Love It” in the background.
So the Blackhawks probably rode out the last 50-something seconds, licked their wounds and came out motivated in the second, right? Well, they weren’t going to wait for that.
Smithson committed a hooking penalty with 44 seconds to go in the frame, putting Chicago on a man-advantage. The Predators won a defensive-zone draw, but Hamhuis failed to clear the puck. It was knocked down by Keith at the point, and he sent a shot in on Rinne. Though the goaltender stopped that one, Toews was at the doorstep to collect the rebound and wrap it past a sprawling Rinne to again stun the crowd and put Chicago back up by one.
And that was it for the first period. And most of the game, as far as scoring went. Nashville committed four minor penalties in the second period, and the Blackhawks got some nice powerplay chances off those, but Rinne turned up his game after the rough opening 20 and turned everything aside. Niemi didn’t have much rubber to face in the middle frame, but he made some nice stops early in that period, with Nashville pushing for another quick tie.
The powerplay ledger was flipped in the third period when the Blackhawks committed all three minor penalties. One of them, a hook by Brent Sopel, probably kept Nashville from tying the game midway through the period. Niemi had to make a big toe save on Joel Ward during one of the other penalty kills. Martin Erat also had a chance, though not on the man-advantage, when he stripped Toews of the puck in Chicago’s defensive zone. Toews did enough on the backcheck to keep Erat to a soft backhand attempt, which Niemi turned away.
Nashville’s final great chance came with less than two minutes to go, as Niemi turned away a series of shots from a host of Predators, making one while on his backside. Things again got ridiculous with less than a minute to go, this time in the final period, as the Blackhawks and Predators played a game of almosts. The puck was almost cleared from Nashville’s offensive zone multiple times, and the Preds almost got the puck on net multiple times. There were probably five penalties committed in about 25 seconds of action, and one was actually ready to be called when John Madden skated the puck down the ice and into an empty net with seven seconds left to ice the game.
This wild win pushed Chicago to another Western Conference semifinal matchup against the then-hated Vancouver Canucks. Niemi (.893) and Rinne (.871) both looked on the scoresheet like they had bad nights, but the offensive units for both sides were clicking on all cylinders. Still, when that happens, it’s usually the Blackhawks who come out ahead.
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