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Longtime Pred enjoys playoff breakout

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE -- On a team with few offensive stars, one of the unlikeliest players stepped forward on Tuesday to lead the Nashville Predators to a 4-1 victory.

Center David Legwand, a former 27-goal scorer who went 34 games without one during the second half of the regular season, registered the game-winning goal along with two assists as Nashville took a 2-1 lead over Chicago in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

"You need everybody to step up," Nashville coach Barry Trotz had said after the morning skate. "We don't rely on one or two guys. We rely on the group. We need more from everybody, quite frankly, from last game."

Making the need more acute for someone to step up, the Preds played their second straight game without leading scorer Patric Hornqvist, who has an upper-body injury.
Legwand who had a one-on-one talk with Trotz about his Game 2 performance in which he was minus-1, must have taken the challenge to heart.

"David's a pretty useful player for us," Trotz said after Tuesday's victory. "He plays in a lot of different roles. We spoke after Game 2 and he knew he didn't have a good game, and he responded well today. Leggy is giving the type of game we need and he gives us a lot more options as a hockey club. He's a good two-way player and chipped in a great goal."

From the start, Legwand showed a big effort. He was stopped on an early breakaway and the subsequent rebound. He had a secondary assist on the Preds' first goal, a rebound by Joel Ward.

Four minutes into the second period, he finished off a 2-on-1 from Steve Sullivan that proved to be the game-winner. To earn his final assist, Legwand helped to keep a puck alive in the Chicago zone before Shea Weber ripped a monster slap shot that was deflected past Antti Niemi.

In the third, he calmly skated the puck out of danger after sustained pressure by the Blackhawks, allowing his teammates to change and not succumbing to the temptation of icing the puck.

"I think that any time you have a tough regular season, the second chance is welcome," Legwand said. "If you would've said at the start of the season that our leading scorer would have only 51 points, nobody would've really given us a chance, but we did it as a collective group and we've got to keep doing that."

For a player who was drafted with the No. 2 pick in 1998, Legwand's path has been an uneven one throughout his career. He totaled career highs of 27 goals and 63 points in 2006-07 before dipping to 15 goals the following season and rising up to 20 in 2008-09.

This season, his 11 goals were his lowest since playing in only 44 games in 2005-06 and matched the 11 that he totaled in 2001-02 when he was only 21.

But if he can put together a strong playoff showing, fans will forget that he only scored once after Jan. 2 this season.

"When he's skating there, he's been unbelievable," said Ward, his linemate. "Good for him to rebound from last game and for all of us to make some plays and good for him to get one, as well."

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