Vernon Fiddler had the perfect touch.
P.K. Subban recorded three points and Fiddler tallied the game-winner with just over five minutes left in regulation, and the Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues in Game One by a 4-3 final on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center. The win gives the Predators a 1-0 series lead in Round Two and a perfect 5-0 record in these playoffs.
The first postseason meeting between the Predators and the Blues had a little bit of everything, and after St. Louis mounted a third-period comeback, it was a 36-year-old veteran who put Nashville on top.
"They had a little push there, and we got to 3-2 and then 3-3, the building is rocking and you have to give our guys credit," Fiddler said. "We just regrouped and went back at them and found a way to get the win."
Nashville got the all-important first goal, and it came from none other than Colin Wilson, making his postseason debut after missing Round One due to injury. It was Subban's shot from the left circle that Wilson got a piece of for a power-play marker to give the Preds a 1-0 lead after one.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Wilson tips Subban's shot for PPG
The second period began with a tough loss, however, as Predators forward Kevin Fiala went hard into the endboards trying to drive to the net. Nashville trainers and doctors attended to Fiala, who was eventually stretchered off the ice and taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. Fiala was alert and in stable condition upon leaving the ice, and Head Coach Peter Laviolette had no further update to provide following the game.
"You couldn't have thought or planned for an incident like that with Kevin, and yet our guys, you could hear them on the bench when it happened, making sure that their next shift was going to be a good one for Kevin," Laviolette said. "It was just one of those unfortunate incidents that happened in the game, and I liked the response from our guys, not only there, but once they tied it up. I thought it was just a gutsy effort from that point to get back to work in the offensive zone, and a huge goal by Vern to get us back on top."
Once play resumed after Fiala's injury, Subban got a goal of his own when he hammered a shot home past Jake Allen for a 2-0 lead. After Colton Parayko beat Pekka Rinne a few minutes later, it was another Nashville power play that converted again. Once more, a shot from Subban found its way through to the net, and after rebounding off of Allen, deflected in off the skate of Filip Forsberg to give the Preds a two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Forsberg deflects in PPG off skate
As the third period began, the Blues kept pushing, and it led to goals from Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko to eventually tie the game at 3-3. But with 5:05 remaining in regulation, and with one hand on his stick, Fiddler chipped a loose puck under Allen and into the cage to give the Predators a 4-3 lead and a 1-0 series lead in the Second Round for the first time in club history.
"He's a veteran guy, so he's been in these situations before," Subban said of Fiddler. "He stepped up and got us a big goal. But for us, that was the toughest game of the season for us. They fought so hard and they had so many chances, but we found a way to get it done."
Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Fiddler chips in late go-ahead goal
"It's the playoffs and you have to take it game by game," Fiddler said. "There's lots of series left… We won the first game, and that means they're going to come at us even harder next game."
Subban Stars in Game One:
P.K. Subban just kept teeing them up.
The defenseman recorded three points on the night, including his first postseason goal as a member of the Preds, leading Nashville to a 1-0 series lead to start off against the Blues.
All three of Nashville's goals came courtesy of shots from Subban, with Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg finishing things off via deflections. Subban's three points in Game One tied a career high for points in a single playoff contest, and his bomb of a shot proved lethal all night long.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm1: Subban scorches one-timer past Allen
"I try to live up to what I'm paid to do," Subban said. "I just try to step up and lead by example on the ice and just try to do my job. Today, I got lucky a couple of times. The puck went in for me, but it's only Game One."
What Subban did in Game One is exactly what the Preds knew he was capable of, especially at this time of the year. And for a player who relishes the spotlight like Subban, he took hold of it at the perfect time.
"He was strong tonight," Laviolette said of Subban. "Defensively, he was a horse, but offensively… he was able to punch his number a couple of times and made some terrific plays… just a real steady game"
"Huge game by him," Rinne said. "He can be a game changer, and tonight, we all saw that. He's been really good in the playoffs in general, and he was a difference maker tonight."
Video: Subban, Fiddler lead Preds to 4-3 victory in Game 1
Colin Wilson finished with a goal, four shots and 15:06 in his first game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vernon Fiddler's goal was his fifth career postseason tally, and his first game-winner. It was Fiddler's second playoff goal with Nashville, the first coming on April 20, 2007, against San Jose.
Game Two between the Predators and Blues will take place on Friday night (at 7 p.m. CT) at Scottrade Center before the series shifts to Nashville for Games Three and Four, beginning with an afternoon tilt on Sunday (2 p.m. CT).