Rozner: Blackhawks 60-minute men in Game 3

  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa pushes up the ice against the Nashville Predators Sunday in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series at the United Center in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa pushes up the ice against the Nashville Predators Sunday in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series at the United Center in Chicago. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/19/2015 10:10 PM

You could argue that the Blackhawks through two games were the better team in one period of the eight played in Nashville, and yet they came home for Game 3 tied in the series at 1-1.

Not what you'd consider the ideal formula for advancing to the next round.

 

"The first two games, we got down by a couple goals and that was something we needed to address," said winger Brandon Saad. "After they got down a game, we knew they'd come out hard in Game 2 and we didn't play the way we wanted to play.

"We knew we needed to be harder right off the start in this game."

The Hawks did that Sunday, led by the energy of 36-year-old Marian Hossa, and they carried it through for 60 minutes, playing their best game in three weeks and defeating the Preds 4-2 at the UC.

Scott Darling was good but not great -- and he didn't have to be. They gave up goals quickly after taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but it felt like the Hawks were in control of this game from start to finish and once again it was entirely about their determination.

"I liked our game," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought we had a real nice (first) period there, putting some pressure on them and got the momentum in the game.

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"Finally, we got the chance to play with a lead for the first time in three games. But it was much better totally in the effort department compared to (Games) 1 and 2."

If the Hawks start like this the next two games, this series will be over Thursday night, but you might have a better chance determining the Kardashians' next mood change than understanding when the Hawks are going to show up for a game at puck drop.

"It seems like sometimes we're just kind of even keel and pick our spots and wait until we get down," Saad said. "We know moving forward we have to put our foot on the gas pedal and keep it going."

Minus Shea Weber, Nashville had no answer for the Jonathan Toews line, which produced 2 goals and 5 points, and Hossa (2 assists, 6 shots) was absolutely dominant from beginning to end, with the Hawks displaying a 200-foot effort for Darling that they didn't offer Corey Crawford in the first two games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We try to play the same way all the time and obviously we weren't good enough in front of (Crawford)," Hossa said. "We didn't help him out, and we learned from it."

Darling didn't reproduce his Game 1 performance, but if he played another 15 years he might not duplicate that game. Still, he was rock solid in goal Sunday afternoon and it's probably his net until further notice.

"Corey is one of the best goalies in the world and it's an honor to be his goalie partner. Corey's gonna be fine," Darling said, continuing to be a model of decorum. "I definitely don't think that they helped him out hardly at all, especially toward end of (Game 2).

"I have a lot of respect for him as a goalie and as a Blackhawks fan even before I got here. I would do anything to have half the success at the NHL level he's had. For him to welcome me the way he did was huge, and I think we've been a pretty good duo."

Duncan Keith was pretty good Sunday, playing his best game of the series, but he said the team wasn't thinking at all about their goaltending.

"We don't focus on all that stuff as players," Keith said. "There were some tough bounces here or there for Corey, but today's a new day. We worked harder and got some breaks and (Darling) was there for us when we needed him."

The biggest break came at 2-2 a few minutes into the second period, when Darling threw a puck around the boards that landed right on the stick of a wide-open Colin Wilson at the point, but Wilson fumbled the puck and handed it to Saad, who busted down the left side and beat Pekka Rinne short side high.

The Hawks never looked back.

"You can talk about it as much as you want, but you gotta go out there and do a job and have the confidence to do it," Saad said of beginning the game on time. "We knew we had to be better."

The Hawks got a serious boost when Quenneville inserted into the lineup Andrew Desjardins, who scored the first goal and helped created the insurance marker. Antoine Vermette was also in as third-line center, moving Andrew Shaw to a more appropriate fourth-line wing.

But it was at the expense of Teuvo Teravainen, which makes little sense when there are a few other passengers, and Kimmo Timonen and Michal Rozsival continued to dress.

Nevertheless, the Hawks played a strong game and they didn't get caught standing at the gate.

"It's something we talked about the first couple games, but for whatever reason we didn't grab the momentum early," Keith said. "So we said we wanted to come out and get the momentum right away."

The Hawks are a different team when that happens, and they insisted Sunday that they will do it again in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

As is always the case with this mercurial team, even they will have to wait to see if it happens again.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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