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Predators stun Blackhawks 4-1 in series opener

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- After he'd met with a throng of media, Chicago center John Madden sat alone at his locker stall staring at the floor.

Madden was likely replaying all the frustration - bad bounces, turnovers and missed opportunities -- that added up to a opening 4-1 loss to the visiting Nashville Predators in front of 22,256 frenzied Hawks fans on Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Nashville got two goals by ex-Hawk J.P. Dumont during a four-goal third period that left the Hawks and the 22,256 fans at the United Center shaking their heads -- and gave the Predators the first road playoff victory in franchise history.


"We were a little rusty but that lucky goal in the third period got us going and built our confidence," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who's been behind the bench for all 11 road playoff games in Preds' history -- and now knows what it feels like to win one." We know we have to win on the road in order to be successful in this series. We had a solid third period and found a way to win."

That "way to win" included a lucky bounce on the game-tying goal 91 seconds into the third period.

Dumont flopped a backhander at the net from beyond the right circle, catching rookie goaltender Antti Niemi by surprise. The puck bounced once, skipped past him and clipped the far post before sliding into the net to tie the game 1-1 just 1:31 into the third.

"I saw Joel (Ward) driving to the net," Dumont said. "I was hoping for a good rebound for him. Lucky for us, and lucky for me, it bounced in.

"We'd been working hard all game. It was just a lucky bounce, but we'll take it."

Dumont's go-ahead goal at 10:37 came when he shoveled in a rebound after Niemi stopped David Legwand's point-blank attempt on a breakaway following a turnover -- one that displeased Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.

"The third period was a tough one," he said. "We lost a bit of our momentum on (the first goal), but the second one was a tough one to give up. We had possession, had fresh legs, and turned it over in a critical spot."

Jerred Smithson and Martin Erat hit the empty net in the final minute, capping a third period that saw the Predators outshoot Chicago 13-4 after the Hawks had a 22-13 margin through 40 minutes.

"We can't be happy the way the third period went," Quenneville said.

The Hawks, seeded second in the West, host Game 2 on Sunday night. Dumont said the Predators have to keep doing what they did in Game 1 -- work hard, get good goaltending and capitalize on breaks and turnovers.

"We know we're still playing a very good team, but tonight it was just a lucky goal that sort of changed the momentum," Dumont said. "We took the lead (in the series) and now we have the advantage, but we have to make sure we keep playing the same way."

The Hawks had 26 shots at Pekka Rinne, but got only a rebound goal by Patrick Kane midway through the second period as the Predators played their close-checking system to near-perfection.

"They're the same team," Madden said. "They play their system great. They're well-coached. They don't take many penalties. They're very responsible on the ice and play a very frustrating style. They played their game. They had no problem entering the third period down 1-0."

That comfort with a close score was what allowed the Preds to finally bag that elusive first-road playoff victory.

"I'd forgotten all about that," captain Jason Arnott said of the Preds' postseason drought away from Nashville. "We'll take it. History or no history, we wanted to win this. It was huge to come in here (and win). What a crowd. Now we've got to put this behind us and get ready for the next one."

The Predators will try for that second road win when they come back to the UnitedCenter on Sunday night. For Dumont, it will be another opportunity to get a little revenge against his former team.

"Personally, it's always something special to play against your old team, especially in the playoffs," he said.

Shift of the game: Just 1:31 into the third period, former Blackhawk J.P. Dumont did exactly what Chicago wanted him to do. He flopped a lazy backhander at goalie Antti Niemi -- only to have the puck bounce into the net, tying the game 1-1 and sparking the Predators to the upset victory.

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