NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Chicago Blackhawks could not have started worse, giving up three goals on the first 12 shots, forcing Coach Joel Quenneville to yank goalie Corey Crawford.
Scott Darling came off the bench and made his postseason debut a game to remember.
Darling stopped all 42 shots he faced, and Duncan Keith scored at 7:49 of double overtime helping the Chicago Blackhawks rally and beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Wednesday night in the opener of their best-of-seven NHL first-round playoff series.
“It was a great opportunity for him, and he seized the moment ...” Quenneville said of Darling. “That was one of the greatest relief performances you’re going to see.”
The Blackhawks finished only two points back of Nashville in the Central Division, and they grabbed home-ice advantage back despite benching Crawford after the first period. Darling had played only 14 NHL games, but he stopped every subsequent shot as Nashville took 54 — a franchise record for the playoffs.
Not bad for someone who split this season between Chicago and Rockford in the American Hockey League. But Darling went 9-4-0 during the season, and he posted a 1.95 goals-against average.
“You just kind of get thrown into it,” Darling said. “It was exciting and nerve-wracking, but once I got going, I felt good.”
Keith ended the game with his one-timer from the blue line. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews each scored for Chicago. Patrick Kane also had two assists in his return after missing 21 games with a broken collarbone.
Keith credited Marian Hossa with getting a bank pass back to him before trying to put the puck on net as quickly as possible. His shot beat Pekka Rinne on the glove side.
“I don’t know if the goalie was able to see it very well,” Keith said. “I think we had some guys going to the net and maybe helped out on the screen. I just want to get it on net. I was lucky that it went in. It was nice to get the game over with.”
Colin Wilson scored twice and Viktor Stalberg had a goal, all in the first period for the Predators.
Game 2 is Friday night in Nashville.
“Other than the second period, I thought we played a really good game,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “Five-on-five, we had some really good chances to win it. It just didn’t go our way, and now we’ve just got to move past it.”