Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson powering Predators
Nashville first line rising to occasion in playoffs, against Ducks in conference finalby Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent
NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators have been searching for a top line that can carry them through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they seem to have found it.
Forwards Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson are leading the way offensively in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks, which the Predators lead 2-1 with Game 4 of the best-of-7 series here Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Forsberg, 22, leads the Predators with six goals and has scored in each of the three games against the Ducks. In a 2-1 win in Game 3, he scored to tie the game at 3:54 of the third period.
"Obviously when you're out there, you want to help the team," Forsberg said after Game 3. "It doesn't matter if we're up or down, you always want to help the team. It came at a good moment, but … if I didn't get that goal, I'm sure someone else would have. But obviously I'm happy I did."
It hasn't only been the quantity of Forsberg's goals; their timeliness has given Nashville the confidence it can produce in any situation.
Video: Reaction to Ducks-Predators Game 3
"He seems to be the guy who's always finding a way to get it done in those crucial points in games," said Johansen, who leads Nashville with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 13 playoff games. "As his linemate and a guy playing with him, we always feel we're a threat on the ice. In those times where we're counted on as a line, we feel like we're able to come through and find ways to make it happen."
Johansen, who battled with Ducks center Ryan Kesler for most of the first two games, did so again in parts of Game 3 and was on the ice for each goal scored by the Predators.
"I didn't change anything," Johansen said. "I wanted to play my game and try to be the best player I can be. I thought as a line we played a solid 200-foot game. We created lots in the offensive zone. Obviously [Forsberg] had that big goal and then [Roman Josi] with the big [game-winning] power-play goal. My mindset is going to be the same [Thursday]. It's just about me and how I can be the best."
The top line for the Predators has combined for 10 points (four goals, six assists) against the Ducks. Arvidsson has eight points (two goals, six assists) in the playoffs; he hasn't scored against Anaheim but has three assists in the past two games, including an assist on Josi's goal in Game 3. Johansen (one goal, three assists) said he's as comfortable with his play as he has been at any point in his career.
"I feel like just with my mindset and the way I evaluate my game, I feel like I took a step," Johansen said. "I'm really happy where it's at right now and the confidence I have in my game coming to the rink each and every day. I feel comfortable and I believe in myself right now."