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Nashville at Chicago

Niemi shuts out Predators in Game 2, Blackhawks tie series

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- Antti Niemi's mind was clear and his game was sharp. It was just what the Chicago Blackhawks needed to even up their first-round series with the Nashville Predators.

"I just wanted to get ready like every other game. I didn't want to think about too much," Niemi said after making 23 saves in his second career playoff game to help the Blackhawks beat the Predators 2-0 on Sunday night.

Niemi, a rookie, didn't dwell on his first playoff game two nights earlier when he gave up two goals, one on a bouncing puck in a 4-1 loss in the series opener. That loss put Sunday night's game into the must-win category for the Blackhawks with Games 3 and 4 in the Western Conference series slated for Nashville on Tuesday and Thursday.

"You don't want to focus on, 'This is a big game.' You want it to be like every other," Niemi said.

Chicago got a power-play goal from Dave Bolland and a score from Patrick Kane on a 3-on-1 break in the final period against Pekka Rinne, who had 31 saves.

But it was Chicago's defense that led the way. The Blackhawks had 13 blocked shots against the Predators, who were without leading scorer Patric Hornqvist, a scratch with an upper-body injury. The 30-goal scorer, who played 13 minutes in Game 1, is expected to return for Game 3. He had taken a slap shot off the body on April 7.

"Nobody really filled his role," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought their goaltender saw way too many pucks. We made it easy on him. ... You've got to fight for inches. We didn't fight for those inches. We need to be in his face a little more and make him fight through and find pucks."

The Predators' offense was lacking a bit without Hornqvist

"We missed him," teammate Steve Sullivan said. "He's a big presence there. He's a talent. He's got great hands in traffic."

On the power play, Jonathan Toews took a pass in traffic in front of the net from Kane and then in turn found Bolland in the left circle and his backhander gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 8:44 of the second.

It was the fifth career playoff goal for Bolland, who scored six goals and played only 39 games this season after back surgery.

"It's a relief. It's big to be tied and not down two going into their barn," Bolland said.

Rinne made a sprawling save minutes later on another power play, stopping a shot by Marian Hossa to keep the Blackhawks' lead at that point to a single goal.

The Predators, who had the fewest penalty minutes per game of any team in the NHL this season, were called for three straight in the second period.

Kane came down on the 3-on-1 break -- one of the few breaks the Blackhawks have had in the first two games against Nashville's tough defense == held the puck on his stick as if he might pass and then rifled it past Rinne on the stick side for a 2-0 lead with more 4 minutes elapsed in the final period.

"I figured the goalie was expecting a pass, so I just took a look at the net and fired," Kane said.

Niemi made two quick saves on good chances by against Dustin Boyd -- one with his right pad -- early in the second period to keep it scoreless. And then he stopped a hard slapper from Marcel Goc early in the third before Kane increased the lead to two.

"Antti came off a game where we were all disappointed. It was a nice response by him," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.

"We were more tenacious in the puck area, we had more traffic at the net, better board play and better in the scrum areas. ... There was more energy in our game."

Chicago's best first-period scoring chance came when Hossa made a nice pass across the crease to Toews. But with Rinne leaning to one side and the net partially open, Toews hit the crossbar with his shot.

Bolland knocked the puck in the net 42 seconds later, but it was disallowed because it came after the whistle when Rinne went to his knees to cover it up. That prompted a loud profane cheer from the crowd at the United Center.

The Blackhawks had a 13-5 shots edge in the first period but couldn't convert. The Predators went on two power plays but couldn't solve Niemi.

Notes

  • The Predators won the first game of their 2006 series with San Jose and then lost four straight.
  • The Blackhawks have a 16-39 series record when losing the first game.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Antti Niemi, whose regular-season record was 26-7-4, bounces back from a subpar Game 1.  (US Presswire)
Antti Niemi, whose regular-season record was 26-7-4, bounces back from a subpar Game 1. (US Presswire)
Scoreboard
Nashville (1-1)0000
Chicago  (1-1) «0112
Three Stars
A. Niemi
CHI


Saves: 23
Save Pct.: 1.000
P. Kane
CHI


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
D. Bolland
CHI


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0

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Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
08:44Power Play - Dave Bolland (1), Backhand Shot. Assist: Toews, Kane
3RD PERIOD
04:18Patrick Kane (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Sharp
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
05:05Dumont, 2 min, Bench - Too Many Men on the Ice
07:54Ladd, 2 min, Interference
13:29Hossa, 2 min, Hooking
2ND PERIOD
03:19Kopecky, 2 min, Bench - Too Many Men on the Ice
08:02Tootoo, 2 min, Tripping
10:19Smithson, 2 min, Tripping
13:22Erat, 2 min, Holding
3RD PERIOD
10:19Keith, 2 min, Tripping
13:45Sullivan, 2 min, Holding
13:45Versteeg, 2 min, Unsportsmanlike Conduct
14:06Weber, 2 min, Cross-Checking
17:32Sharp, 2 min, Roughing
17:32Sharp, 2 min, High-Sticking
17:32Bouillon, 2 min, Roughing
Shots On Goal
 123T
Nashville571123
Chicago1313733
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Pekka Rinne57:32312
Antti Niemi59:55230
Game Information
Attendance - 22158
Referees - Dennis LaRue, Chris Rooney
Linesmen - Brian Murphy, Thor Nelson
 
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Pitt 4 Final
Ott 2
Pho 4 Final
Det 2
NJ 2 Final
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Phi 3
SJ 0 Final
OT
Colo 1