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Lineup changes work in Blackhawks' favor

"He did everything he could to get us a win," Joel Quenneville said of rookie netminder Scott Darling. Joanthan Daniel/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has 14 forwards and two goaltenders he's confident putting on the ice.

When one combination of those players didn't work in the Blackhawks' 6-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 2, Quenneville decided to try another in Game 3 on Sunday. Chicago got a positive result from those changes, winning 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

Quenneville made three moves with his Game 3 lineup. He replaced Scott Darling for Corey Crawford in net, and substituted forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom with Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins.

The Darling-over-Crawford move got the biggest headlines. Crawford had been the Blackhawks' No. 1 goaltender all season and led them to long postseason runs the previous two years. But after Crawford allowed nine goals in consecutive starts and Darling played extraordinarily with a 42-save performance in relief in Game 1, Quenneville decided a change was needed.

Darling didn't let Quenneville or the Blackhawks down in Game 3. Darling said things felt different making his first playoff start rather than coming off the bench, but his play was much the same. He made 35 saves on 37 shots.

"It's definitely different," said Darling, who is from Lemont, Illinois, and had 15-20 family and friends in attendance at the United Center. "You have more time to think about it. The guys played unbelievable and really helped me out, and it was a good game."

While Darling praised others, Quenneville used positive adjectives to describe Darling's play. Quenneville wouldn't go as far as naming Darling his starter for Tuesday's Game 4, however.

"We'll talk about it, but certainly he did everything he could to put himself back in the net," Quenneville said. "I thought he was rock-solid today. And you know he did everything he could to get us a win. You know he was square, he was big and controlled a lot of pucks around the net as well."

Vermette's absence from the lineup in Games 1 and 2 caught the forward, and many others, off guard. He was the Blackhawks' major acquisition at the trade deadline and was seen as their possible second-line center in the playoffs. But after failing to impress Quenneville down the stretch in the regular season, Vermette found himself scratched to begin the series.

Vermette was in the lineup Sunday as the third-line center, and Andrew Shaw was shifted to a fourth-line winger role. Vermette didn't particularly stand out in the win -- zero points, 4-of-9 on faceoffs and a plus-1 -- but he was solid enough.

Desjardins was the surprise of Game 3. Quenneville took out Teravainen, who had a primary assist in Game 1, as he looked for something more on that fourth line.

Desjardins provided it, making an impact right away. Nearly 15 minutes into the first period, he received a pass from Hossa while on the move within the neutral zone and carried the puck into the Predators' end. He shot from the top of the right circle, but the salvo was blocked. Desjardins stayed with the puck, shot it again from the lower right circle and beat Pekka Rinne to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

Desjardins' effort also led to Chicago's final goal. During one shift, he had two shots on goal, won a puck battle and helped keep the puck in Nashville's zone. It all led to Brent Seabrook putting the home team ahead 4-2.

"Like I said before, you're just trying to grind out and keep pucks alive," Desjardins said. "Sometimes you're rewarded in different ways. That was the case in that one."

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was impressed by Desjardins' contribution.

"He's physical," Keith said. "I think he's a guy who has played in playoffs and came from an organization in San Jose that he's played with good players there. I think he brings a bit of ruggedness to the team. Like I said, he scored a big goal and [gave us] a big spark."

Quenneville normally doesn't like to change his lineup after wins, so his 12 forwards and one goaltender from Game 3 will likely remain the same come Game 4. But if the current combination doesn't end up working again, Quenneville won't hesitate to go searching for a better one.

"I think down the stretch here we had some decisions to make with our lineup when we started in the playoffs," Quenneville said. "We were 14 deep and we felt that everybody could have played or deserved to play when we began. Obviously disappointing for a couple guys that they didn't start. But here we are Game 3, we got all our forwards in games.

"I think we're going to need a lot of guys. [Daniel] Carcillo is back and healthy as well. I think the depth of our playoff series and our playoff rounds is a great asset to have organizationally."