DENVER -- Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was calm and smiling.
The Colorado Avalanche had pushed the Predators in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round, cutting Nashville's 3-0 lead after two periods to 3-2 midway through the third. It was a close call, and one that looked unlikely considering how dominant the Predators were through the first two periods, but Nashville held on.
"Obviously, the first two periods, great lead, 3-0," said Rinne, who made 31 saves. "But [Colorado's] a good team. We battled. We scored three, they scored two."
[RELATED: Predators vs. Avalanche Game 4 Recap | Complete Predators vs. Avalanche series coverage]
The Predators once again did what was necessary to beat the Avalanche and lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 with the chance to eliminate Colorado in Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, FS-TN, ALT). Colorado could be without goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who sustained a lower-body injury and did not play in the third period. He was replaced by Andrew Hammond, who made eight saves in his first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since April 17, 2015 when he played for the Ottawa Senators.
Unlike Games 1 and 2 when the Predators started slow and came back to win, Wednesday they had their best start of the playoffs before hanging on late. But Predators coach Peter Laviolette was focused on the result, not style points.
Video: NSH@COL, Gm4: Smith scores after exiting penalty box
"I guess probably some teams, once in a while, can say everything is perfect, everything is awesome. But most times, you're trying to work on something, trying to get better at something," Laviolette said. "We did some good things at Bridgestone, we won a couple of games, had a tough outing Monday. The guys were competitive tonight, so we'll go back and get ready for another hockey game."
Nashville controlled the play in the first period, getting eight shots on goal before the Colorado got its first, and Filip Forsberg scored another highlight goal, leaving another Avalanche defenseman, this time Duncan Siemens, in his wake. It was the first time the Predators had scored a goal in the first period in the series.
Video: NSH@COL, Gm4: Forsberg pots dazzling goal
The Predators continued their strong play in the second. Colton Sissons scored his third of the postseason to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at 7:18 of the second period, and Craig Smith scored shortly after exiting the penalty box to extend the lead to 3-0 at 11:49.
Then things got interesting.
After Ryan Hartman was called for charging and Sissons for tripping, Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog scored on the ensuing 5-on-3 to make it 3-1 at 5:20 of the third period. Alexander Kerfoot scored his second of the series on a rebound in the crease to cut it to 3-2 with 8:59 remaining in regulation.
"The biggest thing was penalties," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "We have to stay out of the box, that's it. "If we don't take penalties we can continue to play our game. We give up a 5-on-3 and that starts it."
Defenseman Roman Josi said: "Well, they're a good team. They're dangerous offensively. They're going to have a push, they have a lot of great players up front. But we found a way to get it."
Video: NSH@COL, Gm4: Rinne stones MacKinnon after nifty move
The Predators got past the late rush by the Avalanche, which included Colin Wilson hitting the post from in front with 2:08 remaining, to hang on for the win. The hockey wasn't perfect, but it's the end result that counts.
"Sure, they had a push in the third. They were shooting quite a bit. They were really looking to get their chances," Smith said. "But we stayed together and it's a gutsy win. Happy with it."
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