Time after time in the tense, waning moments of Game One, Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen stepped into the face-off circle, desperate to protect Nashville's one-goal lead.
Confidently - and justifiably so - Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville kept sending out Captain Jonathan Toews to oppose whichever Preds' center was there to challenge him.
The results were mixed - Fisher was largely the only player who won more than he lost down the stretch - but the ultimate result was unified: the Predators and goaltender Pekka Rinne kept the puck out of their net.
"We talked about that today," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Friday afternoon. "I thought we managed the end of the game really well. We were smart with our discipline and defensively we did the right things, that was a good part of the game for us, that last five to six minutes where we had to do the right things."
Fisher said he found himself trying different techniques to try and win the puck back in the final minutes after an overall down night at the dot up until that point.
"It depends what side you're on, whether you're going backhand, forehand, that kind of thing. I had actually kind of struggled on the face-off dot the first couple of periods, so I was trying to find a little bit of a rhythm," the Preds captain said. "Fortunately, I won a few there, late, which is good."
Traditionally a strong team between the circle during the regular season, Fisher knows an effort closer resembling the Preds' effort in the final five minutes of Game One will be needed for Game Two.
"As a team I think we need to be better in Game Two," Fisher said. "Every guy [on a faceoff] has to make sure they're doing their job, and that they're ready, especially late in games."
Video: Subban, Johansen and Ellis preview Game 2
"The Toughest Game of the Year"
Cliches come into circulation for a reason, and the Preds see the truth in one pertaining to Game Two.
"Our guys know, there's two things. One, we know we can and need to play better. Two, we know that we're probably up for the toughest game of the year," Laviolette said.
P.K. Subban explained it this way: "They've been champions before. They know what adjustments it takes to come back from a game they don't like."
So yes, the Preds are expecting the Hawks' best effort during the next contest at United Center, and they know they can be better as a team, too.
"We went over some things this morning where we think we can be better," Johansen said. "We'll go out there and try to execute our game plan as best we can and find ways to get pucks to the net. We don't want to rely on [Pekka Rinne] to have a shutout every game. We feel confident moving forward as a group."
Video: Laviolette says Preds are expecting the Hawks' best
Calle Jarnkrok only missed the regular-season finale, but after the center missed all three of the team's practices prior to Game One, the Predators' faithful back in Nashville were feeling restless.
The 25-year-old Swede was able to return from his lower-body ailment on Thursday night and logged 16:34 of time on ice, to go along with one hit and one shot on goal.
Laviolette said Friday afternoon he thinks Jarnkrok could be even better in Game Two, after shaking off some of the rust in Game One.
"It was Calle's first game back after being off for a while, so he's out there getting his timing back," Laviolette explained. "I think we take it for granted, right? These guys are great athletes, and they come off of an injury and they miss five, six days with an injury and you think they can just pop back in. But like anybody, at anything, it sometimes takes a little bit to get going. I thought they worked hard and were physical, but I think we've seen [his line] capable of more offensively."
It's going to take more than one goal to win Game Two. That's all but certain.
In the first period, the Preds aimed 11 shots on the Hawks' net, drew their only penalty of the contest and scored the lone goal of the night. The second period was another story (Chicago won the shot battle: 12-4), and in the third, Nashville's sole focus was maintaining a one-goal edge.
So how do the Preds generate more offense in their next battle with the Hawks?
The answer is more complicated than what can be communicated in a post-practice soundbite, but Laviolette provided some insight on Friday:
"Just the way we've played Chicago, we've been able to generate scoring chances," Laviolette said. "Last night in the first period, we were able to generate scoring chances and had a really solid period. In the second period, we didn't like it. But I think the sample size is too small. If we get five games in, and we've played a lot of it like the second period, then we have a major issue. But last night, I do think we generated. The shots were 11 to [six], the chances were heavily in our favor... I thought we played better in the third after the bad second."
Video: Arvidsson taps in Forsberg's feed for the only goal
"Just another great goal from the JOFA line."
That proclamation came from Johansen - following a few oohs and ahs - after watching the above slow motion video of Viktor Arvidsson's game-winner from Game One.
Johansen said he was intending to pass the puck across to Filip Forsberg almost as soon as he got possession of it, but admitted he didn't realize just how close the three Hawks' defenders were to getting the puck back themselves.
"Wow, and Arvi had a little tip out of the air there, too. That's impressive."
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