Go back in time to 10 days ago in Game 1, where the Nashville Predators stormed out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period, resulting in Coach Joel Quenneville to pull his starting goaltender, Corey Crawford. Taking his place between the pipes was Lemont native Scott Darling. Darling would mesmerize the Chicago faithful, stopping shot after shot, en route to an overtime victory for the guys in the Indian head sweater.
Darling would go on to start every game in the series except for Game 2, putting up a record of 3-1-0. After allowing four goals in Game 5, Coach Q stuck to his hot rookie, putting him in the crease for Game 6. What played out was almost a carbon copy of the game that made Darling a star.
Brutal Start, Beautiful End
Coming off a brutal loss in Game 5, the Blackhawks were hoping to pounce early on Nashville and put their backs into the corner. Nashville was having none of that, as James Neal quickly put the Predators up 1-0 going past Blackhawk defender Johnny Oduya and putting it into the net behind Darling. With the United Center crowd quickly deflated, Neal would strike again on the Nashville power-play, deflecting a Cody Franson shot from the point, past Darling, to put Chicago in a 2-0 hole.
Chicago would put a small dent in the lead two minutes later when Patrick Sharp took a pass off the boards from Duncan Keith and deposited it behind Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. The buzz in the crowd was once again hushed quickly when Matt Cullen scored 40 seconds later to give Nashville a 3-1 lead.
This time it was not Darling coming out to stop the bleeding, it was the man he replaced, Corey Crawford.
Darling’s stat line? Three goals on twelve shots. (More on that later.)
Just like in Game 1, the goaltender switch seemed to turn the light on for Chicago. One minute after Cullen stretched the lead, Captain Jonathan Toews made it 3-2 when a Sharp shot-pass deflected off of his skate and behind Rinne.
With the momentum in their favor, Chicago was going to head into the locker room happily down one; that is until Brad Richards won an offensive zone face-off with six seconds left, getting the puck back to Patrick Kane for a one-timer. If there were any doubts about his shoulder before that shot, Kane quietly put them aside, tying the game up 3-3 with a rocket past Rinne.
With all of the scoring out of their systems, both teams played even hockey in the 2nd and 3rd periods. With overtime once again staring both teams in the face, Duncan Keith once again came to the rescue (more on this later as well):
Game over, series over. Chicago now awaits the winner of the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild series. Minnesota currently leads the series 3-2.
The Similarities are Uncanny
In Game 1, Corey Crawford was chased in the first period after giving up three goals on 12 shots. In Game 6, Scott Darling was chased in the first period after, you guessed it, giving up three goals on 12 shots.
In both games, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored goals in the comeback. Game 1 saw Sharp score, followed by Toews, to make it 3-3. Game 6 saw Sharp score to make it 2-1, followed by Toews scoring to make it 3-2. The man who got the primary assists on the goals in Game 1 is none other than the man who scored the game-tying goal in Game 6, Patrick Kane.
Duncan Keith scored the game winner in both games on shots from almost the very same spot. In Game 1, Keith used a Jonathan Toews screen in front of Rinne to score the winner in the overtime period. In Game 6, Keith would once again use a screen, this time by Marian Hossa, to score the game winner.
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Matt Bowen is a Chicago Blackhawks contributor for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @MattBowenTHW