Nashville Predators left wing Harry Zolnierczyk will be keeping his own blog throughout the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zolnierczyk will check in regularly with behind-the-scenes access.
Zolnierczyk, 29, is in his first season with the Predators. He split the season between Nashville and Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. In 24 regular-season NHL games, he had two goals and two assists. In 10 games during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has a goal and two assists. He broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and has played for the Penguins, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks.
In his latest entry, Zolnierczyk revisits the Predators' 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Monday that tied the best-of-7 series 2-2.
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Coming off a big Game 3 win that kind of put us back in the series, this is exactly what we were looking to do in Game 4.
We came out well. Overall the first period was OK, but there were some things we knew we wanted to improve upon.
It would be easy to say that it was deflating when Sidney Crosby scored, but it honestly wasn't. Pittsburgh is a good team, so they are going to get opportunities and they are going to score goals.
I think it went off our defenseman's skate right to Crosby and then he put it in. Obviously he is a great player and he made a great play. But I think he also benefitted from a lucky bounce, banking it off the post. I loved the way we responded though. Pedal down, staying on the gas.
In the second period I thought we started to get a little more to our game. We played a lot more in their zone. When you are spending a lot of time in their zone it's tough for their team to get their energy and come back in waves when they are being hemmed in. Our defensemen did a good job of slamming walls and keeping the puck in. And of course Pekka with his puck handling.
Pekka Rinne was such a big part of all of this tonight. It's astounding the way he makes big saves at big moments, sometimes when the chances almost look like automatic goals. Watching him you think, "That is the save of the game," and then he goes and tops himself, so you think, "Oh no, that was the save of the game." And you just keep doing that throughout the entire game. Those saves on Crosby and then on Jake Guentzel were crazy during that one play in the second. It was so nuts in the building after that. To have such a reliable and consistent goalie makes all the difference. Pekka is a big part of the reason we are here right now.
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It was amazing to be part of the game-winning goal tonight, even though I didn't even know we scored at first to be honest. The emotions were up and down during that shift. Early on I tried to kick a puck out but I fanned on it. All of a sudden I'm watching a breakaway go the other way mainly because of me flubbing the puck. Of course Pekka comes up with a huge save and bailed me out. After that we found a little life and quickly turned it around. I was able to jump in on the forecheck, the rest of our guys came in, and I was able to kick it out to Ryan Ellis for a shot. Then Frederick Gaudreau attempted the wraparound.
Play continued so we didn't know we had scored. But we knew it was close. As we changed we could hear the coaches yelling for a whistle, so I guess guys already had spotted it. Ultimately they determined the puck had crossed the line, and just like that we had the lead. The excitement on the bench after that was great and we just started rolling.
It feels like a new series now going back to Pittsburgh. Like I've written in earlier blogs, we've been happy with the way we are playing, we just haven't been happy with every result. Lately the results have come.
But all this hard work has done is put us back to square one. Now it's best of three. There's nothing to be satisfied with yet and we have a lot of work to do. We're going back to Pittsburgh determined to steal one in their building and bring it to Bridgestone with a 3-2 lead.