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Kevin Fiala gets his moment for Predators

Forward scores in overtime to give Nashville 3-0 series lead against Blackhawks

by Shawn Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- Forgive Kevin Fiala if he wondered if his moment would ever come.

The Nashville Predators forward had already fired six shots at Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Monday and each had been parried, the most recent a spectacular toe save in overtime.

But at 16:44, Fiala tried again.

This time, there was no miracle from Crawford, only the bleat of the goal horn and the rapture of the 17,204 fans who began celebrating the Predators' 3-2 win and a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Blackhawks series coverage]

 

Fiala took a pass from James Neal, cut toward the net, across the face of Crawford's crease and shoveled the puck into the far side of the net.

"It was a great save by Crawford," Fiala said of the toe save that had him venting his frustration three minutes before elation would find him. "I was pretty angry there, I could have finished it. But never mind, we won."

The Predators did win. They won a game not many believed they had a right to win, not after falling behind 2-0 in the second period.

In the process, they have put the Western Conference's top seed on the brink;

Chicago, which finished 15 points ahead of Nashville in the Central Division and won four of the five regular-season games between the two, needs to win four straight games, beginning Thursday in Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-TN, CSN-CH), to avoid being eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.

Video: CHI@NSH, Gm3: Fiala beats Crawford for OT winner

Four teams in NHL history have won a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games. The 2014 Los Angeles Kings are the most recent to do it, rallying past the San Jose Sharks.

These Predators won, as Monday turned into Tuesday, because they showed no quit and no fear of the more established, more veteran Blackhawks. Filip Forsberg scored two goals in the third period to set up overtime and Fiala, the youngest player on the Predators roster, finished it on their ninth shot in overtime.

"When we went in here after the third [period], we could feel it; we were going to do it," Fiala said.

It was a big goal for the 20-year old, who is the youngest player in Predators history to score an overtime goal in the playoffs. He had played 54 games this regular season, earning the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates a little bit more each day.

Predators center Ryan Johansen, who assisted on the tying goal by Forsberg at 14:08 of the third period, wasn't concerned with the outburst from Fiala after the Crawford toe save or when Fiala put his hands to his head in frustration when another overtime shot went begging. 

"You have to stay in the moment; players are going to make plays, Crawford made some plays, [our goalie] Pekka [Rinne] made some plays," Johansen said. "You have to keep going one shift after another and clearly Kev just brushed that [save] off and made one [heck] of a play. I'm so happy for that kid. He's come a long way this year."

Predators coach Peter Laviolette has heaped more and more responsibility on Fiala's shoulders. Fiala has shown an ability to handle it.

"He's a young kid playing in a man's league; a good league at that," is how Laviolette explained it.

On Monday morning, the coach sat down with the player and told Fiala he wanted him more involved.

Fiala responded. He had a couple of glorious chances in the first and was dangerous all night. He finished with seven shots, the most of any Predators player. Only Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane had more shots (eight).

"I thought he handled it well tonight," Laviolette said. "I thought he played a really good game tonight and he had lots of looks and lots of opportunities. Some of his best chances came in overtime. I mean, the last goal was a really patient goal to wait it out like that. It was nice to see him do that."

How much has Fiala grown?

He barely broke into a smile as he talked about his heroics, the Nashville man of the match award, a heavy chain clasped with a lock draped around his neck.

He said it was the biggest moment of his young career, but he could not, or would not, divulge the moment it superseded.

Instead, he was already putting his golden moment in the past, looking forward to Game 4 and the challenges ahead.

"It's still one more game; it's a lot," Fiala said. "We are not there; it's the Chicago Blackhawks. We have to go from the first minute to the last [in Game 4]."

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