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Predators finish off Blackhawks in third, even series

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com

NASHVILLE -- Craig Smith had two goals and an assist to help the Nashville Predators draw even in their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks with a 6-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena on Friday.

The Predators scored three goals in less than 140 seconds in the third period to put the game out of reach. The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

"It's big," Smith said. "You can see it as a result of our hard work, and just stayed with it. Pressuring pucks and creating turnovers and just legging it shift to shift. We were persistent, and good things are going to happen."

Predators captain Shea Weber left the game at 9:20 of the second period because of a lower-body injury sustained on a hit behind the Nashville net by Chicago forward Brandon Saad. He did not return to the game.

"You never want to lose your captain during a game," Nashville forward Colin Wilson said. "One of our best players. I think the guys did a good job of getting it done without him."

The Predators did not have an update on Weber, who had an assist and was plus-1 in 13:25.

Game 3 is Sunday at United Center in Chicago (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Wilson, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Mike Santorelli also scored for the Predators. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks.

Smith put Nashville in front to stay when he scored at 14:54 of the second period on a wrist shot from the slot that beat Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford over the shoulder on the stick side. It was Smith's first goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was huge," Smith said. "You can shoot a whole day for what felt like a couple games and not really see many chances or things go in. I thought our line did a great job, especially defense, of jumping into the play and getting pucks on the net, because that helps us out when we're there."

Forsberg gave the Predators a 4-2 lead at 12:41 of the third period when he scored the first of three Nashville goals in a 2:19 span. The rookie followed the rebound of a shot by Smith and jammed the puck past Crawford for his first career playoff goal.

Smith scored his second of the night at 14:28 to give the Predators a 5-2 lead. He skated past Sharp and Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith before beating Crawford with a wrist shot from the hash marks off the rush.

Forsberg and goalie Pekka Rinne each had an assist on the goal.

"He played great," Josi said of Smith. "He was great in the first game too. He's got so much speed and a lot of jump. He brings that energy, so it's great for him."

Santorelli scored 32 seconds after Smith to put Nashville ahead 6-2. A healthy scratch for Game 1, Santorelli took a pass from Calle Jarnkrok and beat Crawford with a wrist shot.

"We've got a lot of guys that can jump in and play some big minutes and make things happen, including [Santorelli]," Smith said. "He's a great player. You could see his work ethic and the way he prepares for the game. He's ready at all times."

Crawford, who has allowed nine goals in four periods in the series, made 29 saves.

"It was one of those nights where pucks were going in on [Crawford]," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think it was later in the game when we probably could've pulled him, but when it's that deep in the game, we left him in there. He's bounced back and he's come in after some ordinary performances and got his confidence and solidified our team game and his own game."

Wilson gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:47 of the first period on a wrist shot from the goal line to the left of Crawford. He roofed the puck under the crossbar on the power play for his third goal of the playoffs.

Sharp tied the game 1-1 at 16:13 of the first on a wrist shot from the crease that beat Rinne. He took a pass from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and lifted the puck over Rinne for his second goal of the playoffs.

Josi scored to make it 2-1 with 3.6 seconds remaining in the first on a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. He broke in the offensive zone and shot the puck through traffic and past Crawford for his first goal of the playoffs.

"He picked up the puck in our end with only less than 10 seconds on the clock, thinking the period is probably just going to run out, but Roman has carried the puck so many times for us this year and gotten through the neutral zone," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "But even then, with less than six seconds on the entry, to cut it across the ice and find a little bit of wiggle room to get a shot off, [Santorelli] made a nice screen in front of the net. That was a big moment in the game as well."

Kane tied the game 2-2 at 10:32 of the second on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Rinne. Kane broke in the offensive zone on an odd-man rush and took the wrist shot for his first goal of the playoffs.

Quenneville was noncommittal about who would start Game 3 in goal for Chicago. Backup goalie Scott Darling relieved Crawford to begin the second period in Game 1 and made saves on all 42 shots he faced in the Blackhawks' 4-3 win in double overtime.

"We'll see. We'll see," Quenneville said. "Talk about it as we go along here tonight and tomorrow, and we'll go with who gives us our best chance."

Predators defenseman Cody Franson made his playoff debut after missing Game 1 with an upper-body injury. He had an assist on Smith's first goal.

Nashville forward Mike Fisher missed Game 2 because of a lower-body injury sustained early in the second period of Game 1.

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