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Tuesday, April 16

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Blackhawks Mon Apr 26 2010

Hossa, Hawks hope to close out Predators

Well, it's taken awhile to catch my breath after the exhilarating back and forth of Saturday afternoon's Game 5 at the United Center, which saw the Blackhawks lose a 3-1 lead, and appear to be heading for a critical loss after Marian Hossa drew a 5-minute boarding major with a minute left. Then, with goalie Antti Niemi pulled, Patrick Kane poked in a rebound with 13.6 seconds left to rise the UC crowd from the dead and force overtime. The Hawks managed to fend off the Predators and kill the remaining 3:57 of penalty time, and 10 seconds after jumping out of the box Hossa found a Brent Sopel shot on the doorstep and put it past Nashville net minder Pekka Rinne for the game-winner and the 3-2 series lead, and sending the crowd into a pandemonium I haven't heard louder this year.

The 5-4 comeback win is the biggest victory the Blackhawks have had this year, and as the series shifts to Nashville for tonight's Game 6 (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), a Hawks victory would close out the series and set up a rematch with last year's 2nd round opponent, the Vancouver Canucks.

Hossa's boarding major and Kane's tying goal were huge turning points in both the game, and possibly the entire series. After reviewing the play, the NHL announced that Hossa wouldn't be further suspended for the hit, meaning he'll be on the ice tonight. Though the Hossa play was eerily similar to the shove from Alexander Ovehckin that knocked Brian Campbell out for nearly 6 weeks, the key difference was that Nashville's Dan Hamhuis had and was playing the puck, and that Hossa did not have any previous infractions that would influence a possible suspension. The 5 minutes was the right call, and though it put the Blackhawks in a nearly impossible spot, they somehow willed a win out of the dire scenario.

With the Predators' backs to the wall and facing elimination, Nashville will come out and fight tooth and nail tonight, even harder than they've done all series. If the Hawks even remotely take their foot off the gas for a breather, this series will be heading back to Chicago for a Game 7. The last two games have seen the type of effort the Blackhawks need to continually put forth if they want to win a Stanley Cup, and after Game 3's demoralizing loss, it seems they've come to realize that. Even so, after dominating the first 40 minutes of Game 5, and outshooting Nashville 24-8, the third saw the kinds of defensive lapses and missed opportunities the Hawks have continued to allow, which set up the nail-biting late-game heroics.

After struggling offensively, the Hawks have finally proven they can beat Rinne, with 8 goals in the last two games. Even bigger, Chicago has yet to allow a power play goal to the Preds, leaving them 0-for-21. The defense locks things down and limits chances with the man advantage, and Niemi has played strong enough in net to give the Hawks a chance every night. If they can control their turnovers and lapses in 5-on-5 play, the Hawks have a good chance of moving on tonight.

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