Marian Hossa. Would the Chicago Blackhawks have three Stanley Cups in the past six seasons without Hossa on the roster? It’s an interesting question, and one that’s pretty tough to answer with any level of confidence. But one thing’s for certain: Hossa has made a massive impact on the organization since his arrival ahead of the 2009-10 season.
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Among his big early shining moments with the team was a series of events in the Blackhawks’ first-round playoff matchup in Hossa’s first season with the club. With Chicago on the verge of potential disaster, Hossa caused a bit of a problem … and then erased that memory in a snap. Know what game it is? It’s next on our countdown of most memorable Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 6: 2010 Western Conference first round, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT)
The Predators had designs on making things very difficult for one of the better Blackhawks teams in recent memory. The Preds took Games 1 and 3 in this series, and they put up quite an effort in Game 5 at the United Center.
That first paid dividends about 6:30 into the opening period, when Joel Ward and Steve Sullivan combined to win a board battle in their offensive zone. Sullivan threw the puck high into the air cross ice, and over the outstretched hand of Troy Brouwer. It tumbled on to the stick of David Legwand, who had just taken to the ice. Legwand circled toward the net as Ward screened Antti Niemi, then fired a shot high over Niemi’s right shoulder for an early edge.
It’d be all Chicago for a while after that tally. Not long after Legwand had scored, the Blackhawks refused to let the puck clear their offensive zone. Hard work by Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd eventually got the puck to an unchallenged Brent Seabrook at the blue line. Seabs launched a shot toward Pekka Rinne, and Ladd won a positioning battle with Ryan Suter in front of the net to tap home the loose puck, tying the contest halfway through the first.
Unfortunately, the sound on the above video craps out for a while after Seabrook’s goal, but you can still see the action plenty well. The Blackhawks had more offense in their back pocket after Rinne’s attempt to play the puck to his teammate behind the net was intercepted by Jonathan Toews. The captain threw the puck to Patrick Kane, who was quickly surrounded at the circles. But Kane was able to sight Niklas Hjalmarsson at the blue line, and the defenseman absolutely hammered a shot past Rinne, pushing Chicago up by two about five minutes after Seabrook’s goal.
Even on the penalty kill, the Blackhawks were looking good. Early in the second, John Madden and Patrick Sharp ended up with a 2-on-1 break, which saw Madden’s shot smothered by Rinne. Hossa and Ladd later combined for a good give-and-go effort, though it was also turned aside.
Da Windy City
The Blackhawks then absolutely swarmed Rinne and Co. with about six minutes to go in the second, resulting in Chicago going up 20 to five in shots on goal up to that point. But it also resulted in a too-many-men penalty for the Blackhawks. Tomas Kopecky would serve the penalty.
With time winding down on the kill, Hossa tossed the puck out of the Preds’ offensive zone to get some fresh bodies on the ice. Among those was Kopecky, who had sprung from the penalty box just as Hossa cleared the puck. Kopecky collected the puck at the circle to Rinne’s right with only Rinne and a heavy-trailing Suter to stop him. Kopecky avoided a Rinne poke check and slid a backhander into the netting, lifting Chicago further in front.
Things seemed to really be looking up when Jerred Smithson went to the box for hooking a short time later. But this is where Nashville began to find its footing in the contest. Kane turned the puck over in his offensive zone, leading to an odd-man rush for the Preds. Legwand streaked up the ice as Ward beat everyone to the area in front of Niemi. Legwand threw a pass past Duncan Keith, the only man back for the Blackhawks, that Ward picked up cleanly and fired past Niemi to cut Chicago’s lead to one before intermission.
Nashville wasn’t about to let up entering the third. With the Blackhawks struggling to clear their zone early in the period, defenseman Denis Grebeshkov wound up with the puck at the blue line. After delaying a short time, he hit J.P. Dumont to Niemi’s left. Dumont quickly flicked the puck to Martin Erat below the circles, and Erat flung the puck past Niemi to tie the game. At this point, Nashville was being outshot 25-9.
The Blackhawks had a chance to answer back after Legwand went to the box about six minutes into the period, but bids by both Kane and Sharp were shut off by Rinne.
Not taking advantage of that chance would hurt the Blackhawks later, as some tic-tac-toe passing saw Erat convert another goal with less than nine minutes to go in the game. Now Chicago trailed, and it was at risk of going down 3-2 in this series heading back to Nashville.
So the Blackhawks had more than eight minutes to at least tie things up. No problem, right? Well, as time wound down, nothing was finding the net for Chicago. To make matters worse, Hossa committed a five-minute boarding penalty with just 1:03 to play, seemingly killing the Blackhawks’ chances in this game. However, Hossa was not tossed from the contest, something that would obviously become important later.
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But for now, Chicago had to pull Niemi just to get to 5-on-5 play for the final minute of regulation. You’d be surprised if that actually worked. Of course, the Blackhawks were full of surprises in 2010.
Erat made a poor pass in his offensive zone, allowing the Blackhawks to break the other way and pull Niemi. Toews carried the puck into Chicago’s offensive zone and delayed as the Blackhawks got a fifth man on the ice. Seabrook would eventually wire a shot off the post to Rinne’s left, but the puck stayed with Chicago. Seabrook got the puck back and dished it to Toews, who threw it on net from the circle at Rinne’s left. With both Keith and Kane in front searching for a rebound, it was Kane who tapped the puck into a nearly-empty net to tie the game with 13 seconds left.
The United Center came unhinged, but there was still 3:56 of penalty kill time to go for the Blackhawks in overtime.
But the Blackhawks did kill that penalty. Then, things got crazy.
The Blackhawks were already in their offensive zone as the penalty was expiring, and Hjalmarsson did a a good job throwing the puck in deep. Dave Bolland collected the puck behind the net and skated it to the other side, eventually tossing it up the boards to Brent Sopel at the blue line. Sopel slapped the puck at Rinne just as Hossa, who was leaving the penalty box, had situated himself at the doorstep to Rinne’s right. The puck, naturally, landed right in front of Hossa off the Sopel shot for a tap-in, game-winning goal, after which Doc Emrick yelled “KAAAAANE!” Close enough.
It’s important to note that Sopel, the defenseman who was far better known for laying in front of opposing shots, got this entire thing started by carrying the puck into the offensive zone with about five seconds to go on the kill. He then circled all the way around the back of the net, never intending to make a pass that could go the other way. At that point, Hjalmarsson collected the puck and kept it in, leading to what I just described above.
And it led to madness in the Madhouse on Madison, as the Blackhawks grabbed an improbable (based on the game’s late action) 3-2 series lead. The final play of this game has to give you goosebumps if you’re a Blackhawks fan. Remember, this was before the Blackhawks were ever thought of as a dynasty. So the insanity of all that had taken place through the third period, up until the game-winning goal, just set the crowd on a “ready to explode” level. And explode it did, as Hossa slid across the ice on his knees, pumping his fists in celebration. An iconic moment in Blackhawks history, to be sure.
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