Martin Erat taketh and Martin Erat giveth.
After singlehandedly tying the game and then giving the Predators the lead, Martin Erat also helped pull the Blackhawks up off the mat. With less than 40 seconds to play in the game and the Predators holding a 4-3 lead and with a man advantage, the Blackhawks were pinned in their own zone. No sooner after the words “four corners” came out of Doc Emrick’s mouth, did Erat do the unthinkable and threw the puck towards the middle of the ice.
The puck bounced off the side of the net and went right to Jonathan Toews who happily went the other way. After gaining the Predator zone and getting the extra man out on the ice, Toews reacquired the puck. He fired a low shot towards Pekka Rinne. With Duncan Keith providing the screen in front, Patrick Kane banged home the rebound and just like that, the Hawks went from the verge of elimination to a re-birth of epic proportions.
Now, of course, would be a good time to also mention the remaining four minutes on Marian Hossa’s boarding major. The power play time rolled into the extra frame. The Predators had a couple of golden opportunities including the red-hot David Legwand who found the puck on his stick in the slot. Antti Niemi, who looked shaky during the regulation, stood tall during the sequence and denied Legwand along with anything else the Predators threw his way.
As Hossa’s penalty was set to expire, Brent Sopel gathered the puck in the neutral zone and headed into the Nashville zone. Rather than throw a reckless pass towards the front of the net or a bad angle shot, Sopel simply carried the puck around the net, killed off the remaining penalty time, and left a drop pass for John Madden at the left wing hash marks.
Madden sent the puck around to Dave Bolland who found Sopel back at the blue line. Hossa went straight to the front of the net when he returned to the ice. Sopel let off one of his patented slap shots that was deflected on its way towards Rinne. It went right to Marian Hossa who was standing all by his lonesome to the right of Pekka Rinne. He banged the puck past a diving Rinne and a game that was all but lost was somehow won.
And none of it would have been possible without Martin Erat.
–Dave Bolland had an absolutely craptastic day. Three of the four Predator goals came as a direct result of him getting lost on the ice. Two were well-documented by the NBC crew. The other was camouflaged by Patrick Kane. When Kane threw the puck out towards the center of the ice on the power play late in the second period, it sparked a Nashville 3-on-1 the other way. What everyone failed to mention while they were piling the blame on Kane was Bolland flying towards the front of the net even though A) he was playing the point and B) Kane had just gained possession of the puck.
I felt like the risk of throwing Bolland on the point in that situation (Hawks up 3-1 with 22 minutes left and completely dominating the game) was not worth the reward. Sure enough, Joel Ward banged in a goal and the Predators never looked back. Well until, you know….
—John Madden played one of his better games in months. He actually had some decent offensive chances and appeared to remove the lead weights from his skates.
–The Marian Hossa Suspension Debate will rage for another few hours. Just hours after absolving Zdeno Chara from the automatic instigator suspension rule, the Wheel of Justice will take another turn around the block. The play was dangerous, no doubt. Certainly not reckless like the Ovechkin hit. Either way, anything more than a game for Hossa would be absolutely stunning.
—Joel Ward played 26 minutes!!
–In our Committed Indian article from today, I/we mentioned how maybe the Jonathan Toews goal from Game 4 was the series shifter. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new contestant: The Martin Erat boneheaded play of the year. What Erat did at the end of Saturday’s game will resonate for the remainder of this series. In my perverted hockey world, something like that is an immediate death sentence for the Predators. They went from having every opportunity to close out the game and putting the Hawks on the brink of elimination to facing their own elimination.
Unless the Hawks do something as brain-dead as Erat’s play, it’s going to take a miracle of Bob McGill-ian proportions for Nashville to win it in 7.
—Antti Niemi gave up 4 goals on 21 shots. Not one of them were his fault. Unfortunately, Niemi also looked as uncomfortable in net as I’ve ever seen him. He seemed to be fighting the puck all night. The good news was that when it mattered most (overtime), he was fine.
–The final sequence of the game was such a professional play by Brent Sopel. He showed the patience to hang on to the puck and wait for the right move. He didn’t rush anything and let it all come to him. When it did, he didn’t let anyone down.
–The Rockford IceHogs were eliminated this weekend by the Texas Stars in 4 games. With the entire team at their disposal, only Corey Crawford was given the bump up to Chicago. There might be a couple more guys joining him soon (Jake Dowell and Jack Skille come to mind.), but for now, it’s only Crawford. Before anyone starts questioning whether this means he’ll dress over Cristobal Huet, let’s recall that Crawford was also called up last year and the only time he ever dressed was when Nikoali Khabibulin was hurt.