Nashville Predators left wing Harry Zolnierczyk will be keeping his own blog throughout the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zolnierczyk will check in regularly with behind-the-scenes access.
Zolnierczyk, 29, is in his first season with the Predators. He split the season between Nashville and Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. In 24 regular-season NHL games, he had two goals and two assists. He has played in nine 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff games and has a goal and an assist. He broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and has played for the Penguins, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks.
In his Sunday entry, Zolnierczyk looks back at his Stanley Cup Final debut, a 5-1 victory for the Predators in Game 3.
It was an unbelievable day. It's an indescribable feeling to see the lineup posted with your name there and to know you're going to be a part of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, in Nashville, in Bridgestone Arena. As soon as I saw that, I was filled with excitement and immediately started getting ready for the game.
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Even though I prepared the same way, there's no denying it was a special night.
The electricity in the atmosphere started during the warmup. It was one of the craziest warmups I've ever seen. I don't think there was an empty seat half an hour before puck drop, which is pretty unheard of. Going into the locker room after that, we were reminded that we not only wanted to win for everybody in our dressing room and in the organization, but ultimately for everybody in Nashville and for anybody that is on board with us.
Even though they got on the board first, the fans didn't sit down, and we didn't sit down. We stayed the course, swung the momentum in our favor during the second period, then started to run away with it.
Specifically for me, I entered the lineup alongside PA Parenteau and Frederick Gaudreau on the fourth line. Every time I step on the ice, my main objective is to do everything I can to help the team win. Our line just wanted to make sure that we were bringing energy and speed and playing as much as we could in Pittsburgh's zone. The more time we spend buzzing around their net obviously means fewer opportunities for the Pittsburgh forwards. I thought we did a good job of getting pucks deep and making their defensemen work in their zone.
By doing that, we ended up drawing the penalty that led to the first goal, by Roman Josi. It was a good play by our guys working it up to PA, who made the chip to me. I was just trying to come across with some speed, and their defenseman was called for a penalty when he grabbed onto me.
The power play took advantage and came through with a goal. That was huge. It was nice to see the PP clicking, and they were clearly starting to feel it out there. Once they got us rolling, all of us started to rally, and it ultimately led to a nice team win with five goals.
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Josi hammers home slapper for PPG
To be honest, we had a feeling that the offense was going to come eventually. Although we didn't get the result we wanted in Game 1 or Game 2, we knew that if we just stuck with it and played our style of hockey, pucks would start to land for us. I think in Game 3 was that finally happening. We got a couple of bounces, but we were working for them. We earned them, and once we start rolling like that, it's pretty tough for teams to keep up. The onus is on us, though, to make sure we have the pedal down all the way for the whole 60 minutes. We did that in Game 3.
When I look back years from now, I will probably remember stepping on the ice for warmups. To play in this game was so special. I mean, everything just becomes bigger. First, it's a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Next, it's a game in the Western Conference Final. Then, all of a sudden, you're playing for the Stanley Cup. It's just one dream after another dream.
There's obviously still a lot of work to do before we reach the ultimate dream. But the belief in our room, and obviously our city, is strong right now. That won't change.