The Nashville Predators were focused on winning a period at a time in what was an elimination game on Thursday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks. They can consider the third period won.
Three goals in under three minutes put the Predators up 4-1 in the final frame in what proved to be a 5-2 win in Game Five, thanks to a hat trick from Filip Forsberg. The rookie netted his first of the night at 14:42 of the opening stanza before adding two of Nashville’s four tallies in the third period, forcing a Game Six on Saturday night at the United Center.
Entering the third frame in a 1-1 tie and down 3-1 in their series with the Hawks, the Preds faced the possibility of the next 20 minutes being their last of the season, but James Neal’s wraparound gave Nashville the lead just 47 seconds into the period. The goal began the speedy trio of scores in 2:27.
The home team staved off a postseason exit on Thursday and successfully shifted the series back to Chicago where the Hawks most recently won 3-2 in triple overtime in Game Four, the longest game in Predators franchise history.
Saturday night will be another elimination game for Nashville, so again, they’ll focus on winning one period at a time. More third periods like in Game Five, and they’ll probably be pleased with their results.
“Our back is still up against the wall, and we are still a team who needs to realize where we are at and our place in life right now,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “If we win, we can come back and play Game Seven, and if we don’t, then we start our summer. I don’t think our guys are ready to go home.”
Three for Fil:
The Preds needed to lean on their star rookie with their proverbial backs against the wall down three games to one to the Hawks. Especially considering the painful outcome in a triple OT loss in Game Four, standing up to Chicago on Thursday was going to be anything but easy.
20-year-old winger Filip Forsberg answered the call.
“Obviously it’s always special to get a hat trick, but the most important thing is that we got the win,” Forsberg said. “We had to win this game and had to take this series back a little bit with home-ice advantage, and now we’re going back into Chicago.”
Forsberg tallied Nashville’s first goal of the contest to ensure that the Preds wouldn’t head to the room down 1-0, as he potted his second of the playoffs at 14:42 of the opening frame. The winger then capped off the Preds outburst of three markers in a span of 2:27 to put his club up by three.
Then, with Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling pulled for an extra attacker, Forsberg capped off the hat trick with 11 seconds remaining in the contest, completing the first postseason hat trick in franchise history.
“For Filip to come out and score some big goals for us, I think he has been our guy all year,” Laviolette said. “We have really counted on him to produce offense and we put ourselves in a situation where our back is against the wall. We need to get big performances out of our players. I think that speaks a lot of him.”
Wilson Sets Franchise Mark:
Colin Wilson flipped a switch when the calendar turned to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15.
The winger blowing past Michal Rozsival in Game One and then firing a puck past Corey Crawford six minutes into the first period was the first evidence of it. Putting Nashville ahead 1-0 again in Game Two and Game Four could be pointed to as well. Notching the game winner on Thursday shouldn’t be overlooked either.
At 3:02 of the third, Wilson spun down low in the slot and roofed the puck past Darling for his fifth of the series, a new Preds franchise record. After three power play goals in 77 regular season games, the 25-year-old now paces the NHL with four markers on the man advantage in the playoffs (and is tied for the League lead in tallies as well). Switch: On.
“I think the postseason does that to a lot of players,” Laviolette said of Wilson’s playoff performance. “Your regular season is long, and it all cannot be perfect through the course of the regular season, but certainly I think he found another gear, another speed, and he has picked up the pace in the playoffs. He’s playing at that speed he needs in order to be successful.”
The Predators have now scored 14 goals in three home games during their Western Conference Quarterfinal Series with Chicago.
Nashville is now 4-6 all-time in Game Fives in franchise history and 1-4 in Game Sixes. The Preds have never played a Game Seven.
Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are all tied for the team lead in points with five.
Game Six in Chicago is set for a 7 p.m. CT start on NBC.