Everything was sailing along smoothly.
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.”