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Forsberg hat trick helps Predators extend Blackhawks

by Robby Stanley /

NASHVILLE -- Filip Forsberg's first NHL hat trick helped the Nashville Predators stave off elimination with a 5-2 win Thursday in Game 5 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago, which will host Game 6 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports), has a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 28 saves, and Nashville scored three goals in a 2:27 span in the third period.

It was the first time Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling allowed more than two goals in the series.

James Neal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead 47 seconds into the third period on a wraparound goal. He chased the puck behind the net and beat Darling for his second of the playoffs.

"It was a great game from our group," Neal said. "I mean, you battle all year to put yourself in the playoffs and give yourself a chance to win. Our backs are against the wall, and you've got to do everything you can to win a game. I mean everyone says it, but you take one game at a time. That's all you can do."

Colin Wilson gave Nashville a 3-1 lead at 3:02 of the third on a power-play goal from in front of the net. He took a pass from center Mike Ribeiro, spun around and roofed the puck past Darling for his fifth goal of the series, a Predators record.

Wilson's four power-play goals are the most in the playoffs.

"The regular season is long," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "It all can't be perfect in the course of the regular season, but certainly I think he found another gear. The speed for one thing has, I think, picked up in the pace of the playoffs. He's playing at that speed that he needs to be in order to be successful."

Forsberg's second of the night came on a one-timer on the rush 12 seconds after Wilson's goal. He took a pass from Mike Fisher, who returned to the lineup after missing Games 2-4 because of a lower-body injury, and scored his third goal of the playoffs to make it 4-1.

The Predators were able to get Darling moving side to side more in Game 5.

"We look at the games we've been playing, look at what [Darling] has been doing and what we can do better," Forsberg said. "Obviously, he's a big guy. If we can make him move, it's going to hurt every goalie in this league. I think that was a big key for us with a couple goals on the movement there."

Chicago forward Kris Versteeg made it 4-2 with 5:08 remaining on a one-timer. Patrick Kane made a spin-o-rama pass in the slot, and Versteeg fired it past Rinne for his first goal of the playoffs.

Forsberg scored an empty-net goal with 10.3 seconds left to complete his hat trick.

"It's always special with a hat trick, but the most important thing is that we got this win," Forsberg said. "Obviously, we had to win this game just to kind of take the series back a little bit to our advantage. Obviously, going into Chicago now, it's going to be a real pleasure to play there."

Blackhawks forward Brad Richards opened the scoring at 13:27 of the first period on a shot that beat Rinne through the five-hole. He skated around Predators defenseman Cody Franson and got off a quick shot for his first goal of the playoffs.

"We just got sloppy," Richards said. "Fed a lot of transition, outnumbered rushes, so we've got to get back to being stingier and paying attention to details with the puck. We just got a little out of control there, and that's not necessarily why they scored the first goal out there, but we were sloppy and it kept them feeling it, feeling good, because they had a lot of rush chances and they had the puck a lot."

Forsberg tied the game 1-1 at 14:42. He retrieved the puck off the faceoff and beat Darling with a wrist shot over the shoulder on the glove side.

"He's a special guy," Rinne said. "Obviously we are lucky to have him. Just his talent, I'm not surprised anymore. You get to see this guy every practice, and you know what he's able to do. Obviously, it's pretty special for a guy that young to score a hat trick in playoffs, this type of a game too. Really happy for him."

The finalists for the Calder Trophy were announced Thursday, and Forsberg was left off of the list after being a favorite to win the award as top rookie for a large chunk of the season. Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers and Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators were named finalists.

"It's tough," Laviolette said. "He was leading the rookies all year, his name was mentioned the whole year. He still finishes within one or two points and goals on people, plus-minus and all of that. You're talking about great players, but sure we're disappointed for Filip. It would have been an honor.

"You get one chance at that, really. You get lots of chances at different things and Stanley Cups and different awards and whatever it might be, but you get once chance at a Calder. Certainly a good group of players that are lumped in there, but our guy's pretty good too."

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