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Bad bounce leads to tough night for Niemi

Antti Niemi couldn't handle J.P. Dumont's flip shot in the third period, and it shifted momentum to the Predators. Jerry Lai/US Presswire

Everything was sailing along smoothly.

The Chicago Blackhawks were leading 1-0 behind goaltender Antti Niemi, who was making his first career playoff start. With 20 minutes to play, things were looking good.

And then the bounce happened.

“It took a funny hop and a funny bounce,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Sometimes they can go in.”

This one did, after the Nashville Predators’ J.P Dumont flipped it on net as he entered the Hawks zone. The bounce caught Niemi in between and it got past him.

“Obviously, they got some momentum when they got that first goal,” forward John Madden stated.

The Predators rode that momentum for most of the third period. They forced a Troy Brouwer turnover and the resulting sequence saw Niemi make the initial save but he couldn’t stop the rebound chance by Dumont.

It was a tough finish for the young goaltender who took over the No. 1 job late in the season after winning the back-up role in training camp. No one was blaming Niemi for the loss, though.

“It was a flukish goal,” Patrick Sharp said. “Sometimes they happen. You can’t blame one person when you lose a close game like that.”