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2015-16 Top Games Countdown: No. 5

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

March 5: Predators vs. Avalanche

The Nashville Predators’ season was approaching a fork in the road in early March, and they knew it. A victory over the Colorado Avalanche, a team chasing them for a playoff spot, would create some comfortable breathing room; a loss, and the gap would be minimal at best.

“We’re both in very similar positions in the standings right now,” Preds center Ryan Johansen said a day before the game. “You look at how important these points are in this game coming up tomorrow, it’s going to be a dogfight out there. This morning, coach said it’ll be like a playoff game, that’s how we’re going to prepare for it, and that’s what we’re going to expect from them. It should be a fun game tomorrow; these are the ones you really look forward to it.”

Six points up on Colorado and riding a franchise-record, 11-game point streak into the contest, Nashville overcame early adversity with a four-goal third period to win 5-2 and effectively push the Avs out of the postseason race.

Filip Forsberg scored his 14th goal in as many games to tie the contest late in the middle period, but the Avs headed to the dressing room up 2-1 after Gabriel Landeskog scored in the final minute. The final 20 was all Preds as James Neal knotted the score early in the frame and Mike Fisher later added the eventual game winner.

“Everybody came out in the third period and did a tremendous job,” Preds bench boss Peter Laviolette said. “[Goaltender Pekka Rinne] was awesome; we had a little bit of trouble in the first five or six minutes of the third period, but after that I thought we got going and started playing some offense and it was good. They have a real good team, and sometimes you're going have to play good defense. We thought we did that tonight, and this was a good team win in a playoff-like atmosphere.”

Check back next weekend for Game No. 4 in our countdown!

Golden Goal:

In career game No. 1,001, Mike Fisher cuts to the slot, finds a loose puck off of Mattias Ekholm’s slapper and deposits the game winner upstairs past Calvin Pickard.

All Lines Firing:

As of late, the Predators have received plenty of production from the line of Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith. That trio still did their part in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Avalanche, but the other three forward units got in on the act as well.

Forsberg, James Neal, Mike Fisher and Miikka Salomaki - each a member of a different line - all put the puck in the net, and nine different Preds forwards recorded at least one point on the afternoon.

“Every line can score,” Smith said. “You don't have to really worry. You can get goals from everywhere, and that's what we need.”

The top line of Neal, Ryan Johansen and Calle Jarnkrok tied the game 2-2 early in the third, an important tally, not only in the game, but for the trio as well, who haven’t found the back of the net with the regularity they’d prefer.

“You try not to dwell on how it's been lately; the three of us want to produce more offensively, but I think it's important we don't get away from our defensive game,” Johansen said. “We’ve been pretty solid there, so it was definitely nice contributing and hopefully we can use that now and get a spark here.”

No matter who is scoring, the spark of a 12-game point streak undoubtedly keeps the confidence high with only 16 games to go.

“It was very noticeable from my eyes the resiliency in the group tonight, which has made us very successful as of late as well,” Johansen said. “That was a huge win in their building, knowing the circumstances of the standings right now. We’re definitely going home feeling good about ourselves.”

Gifs of the Game:

Sometimes blocking a shot just isn’t worth it.

Quotables:

Peter Laviolette on his team’s performance to find a way to win in the third period:

“When you're going out there, you’ve just got to win a period. You don't think about the scoreboard or whether you're behind, if you can just win a period, you can win a game; you might get to overtime, you get a point, you get something.”

Frozen Focus:

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