Marian Hossa the Goat-Turned-Hero in Latest NHL Playoff Classic
How did he do it? By taking a five-minute boarding major with just over a minute left in regulation and his team trailing by a goal. No, seriously.
With Hossa in the penalty box, his team trailing 4-3 and the Predators in prime position with the man-advantage to run out the clock, the Blackhawks suddenly became this postseason's first "team of destiny."
Shorthanded but with goalie Antti Niemi pulled for an extra attacker, Chicago tied the game with 14 seconds left in regulation on a goal by Patrick Kane. The fans in the United Center, 22,000-plus living and dying for this Original Six's first Stanley Cup championship since the Kennedy administration, went nuts.
Only trouble was, when overtime started the Blackhawks still had 3:57 to kill from Hossa's punishment for shoving Dan Hamhuis into the boards from behind.
Actually, it turned out to be no trouble at all. Maybe the Predators, short on world-class skill but with a collective work ethic unmatched in the league, still aren't ready for these big moments. The shorthanded goal by Kane was inexcusable. If Nashville loses this series -- they are down 3-2 with Game 6 on Monday night at home -- they will never live down looking so confused in the final minute of what could have been one of the biggest wins in franchise history.
Well aware his team had numbers in front of the net, Sopel one-timed a soft slap shot that deflected off at least one stick on its path. The puck slid to the man who was a villain-turned hero in just over five minutes (plus intermission).
Marian Hossa scored his first goal of the series, and the second playoff overtime goal of his career. Hossa had his redemption.
And the NHL had another classic game in a first round overflowing with them. May it never end.