-- As they gathered at O'Hare Airport for the trip to Nashville, the Chicago Blackhawks knew they were fortunate to win Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Nashville.
That's why they are putting a big emphasis on ending the series on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena in Game 6.
"You've got to close the door, go after it and put them away," said Hawks center John Madden, who won two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. "You don't want to give anybody a second chance to come back and bite you. The way I'm looking at it is we have to go in there and win this game. I'm not looking at it like, ‘Oh we're back in our building for Game 7.' This is the game we've got to take."
The urgency comes from knowing it was just 13.6 seconds away from being a game they had to win to prevent the season from ending. Had Patrick Kane
not backhanded a rebound past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne to tie Game 5 just before regulation ended, the Hawks would be in a much more dire situation.
Madden knows what it feels like to be pushed to the brink, and expects the Predators to put up a fight.
"They're going to come out flying," he said. "They're fighting for their lives. It's an elimination game. If we win, they're out. They're going to be at their best, (and) we've got to be at our best in order to compete with them. I hope that's not overlooked."
It won't be if Hawks coach Joel Quenneville's message gets through to his team.
"The way it looked … it looked bleak there for awhile," he said. "We want to go into this building tomorrow in the right frame of mine, knowing that maybe we were fortunate but you've got to earn your breaks going forward. We can't expect them to give it to us. We've got to go out and earn it."
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
agreed and said the Hawks must not only match the Predators' intensity, but also continue outworking Nashville in areas that don't necessarily show up in the final stats.
"That's been the biggest thing in this series so far," he said. "The team that works the hardest, blocks the most shots and does all the dirty work (wins)." Slight of puck
-- Almost lost amid the frenzy of media coverage following the Hawks' overtime thriller in Game 5 was goalie Antti Niemi getting the puck stuck in his uniform for several minutes.
Video of the humorous incident made its way around Web sites, including NHL.com, before the day's action had even ended. Hjalmarsson, Madden and Quenneville were asked about it before they boarded their charter flight to Nashville on Sunday.
Quenneville called it the "hidden puck trick."
Madden, who helped search Niemi's uniform, planned to kid the goalie about it on the flight. Hjalmarsson, who also helped search for the puck, thought it was entertaining to say the least.
"It was a pretty weird situation," he said. "Never been on the ice for that one before. I thought Antti was going to take all his clothes and all his gear off. That was a pretty fun situation and the crowd liked it, too. Pretty big roar right there."
'Hammers' nailing it down -- Hjalmarsson is quietly having a very good series for the Hawks, including his first career playoff goal in Game 5 on a slap shot from the point that gave Chicago a 2-1 lead after one period.
He added an assist for a two-point game and logged a plus-3 rating. He now leads the Hawks with a plus-6 for the playoffs.
"I feel pretty good so far," he said. "It's always fun to score a goal and help the team out a little bit offensively, (but) it's all about winning games now that we're in the playoffs. That's all that I care about." PK is 'A-OK
' -- While Nashville's 0-for-21 performance on the power play shows the Predators' offensive issues, it's also a reflection of the Hawks' penalty-killing units.
Madden is a key performer on penalty kills, as are Niemi and shot-blocking defenseman Brent Sopel. Have the Hawks gained an unspoken advantage on the Preds as the power-play drought continues?
"I wouldn't say we have a mental edge on them," Madden said. "I just think that we have an idea of what we want to accomplish out there. Niemi's been great. He's made some huge saves for us on the penalty kill. It's not like they haven't gotten any chances. They have and he's made some saves. And everybody's seen Sopel pretty much block everything that comes his way."
Author: Brian Hedger | NHL.com Correspondent