Biggest penalty-kill yet for Hawks

Joel Quenneville said the Chicago Blackhawks were “excited about the challenge.”

It was the third intermission, and the Hawks had just tied Game 5 against the Nashville Predators at four. The penalty killers had a job to do. Marian Hossa was in the box and there were four minutes left on his boarding infraction. And Nashville had a clean sheet of ice.

“We talked about that penalty kill,” John Madden recalled. “And keep the shifts short. We had the long change there on that end. Make 200-foot clears. Don’t try anything stupid, and when we kill it we’re going to get back to work.

“We won some loose battles along the boards, we blocked shots, we won foot races.”

And their goaltender came up big.

Antti Niemi made five saves during that sequence. After the game, he called the win an “incredible feeling.” And even though the first 60 minutes were a little rough -- he gave up four goals on just 16 shots -- Niemi was able to put it behind him.

“You know you’re going to face some shots,” Niemi said of his mindset going into overtime. “You have to forget what happened before and be ready.”

The penalty-killing unit has been the most consistent part of the Blackhawks game all season. The Predators are 0-21 in the series, and it’s becoming a source of pride for the Hawks, if it wasn’t already.

“We have some excitement going on with the PK [penalty killing] group,” Quenneville said. “Everyone has been chipping in, in a lot of ways. Whether it’s blocking shots, whether it’s retrieval of pucks, whether it’s faceoffs, or big saves. Being a threat to score shorthanded, as well, is something that helps us.”

Quenneville cited that last point as an important one in overtime. Madden had a good offensive chance early in the kill and Quenneville said it helped set the tone. In fact, Madden did a little bit of everything during those four long minutes.

“That was huge,” Tomas Kopecky said of the kill. “Mad Dog [Madden] blocking a shot from [Shea] Weber. When you do the little details, the big thing is going to come. The killers did an incredible job.”

The emotions of this game took on a life of their own, but thanks to some unsung heroes of what some said was “the most desperate kill of the year," the Hawks came out on top.

“Call it a roller coaster,” Madden said of his emotions. “Something we don’t want to be in too often.”

But when you get the job done, it feels that much better.