After jumping out to a 2-0 series lead on the road, the Nashville Predators return home to Bridgestone Arena for Game Three tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. It's the second consecutive year the Preds have begun their opening series by collecting a 2-0 lead on the road, and this year, they are yet to allow a single goal to their opponent.
Nashville defeated Chicago 1-0 in Game One before trouncing the Blackhawks by a 5-0 final in Game Two on Saturday night. Five different Preds scored in Game Two, including four - Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala - who potted their first career playoff goals. Pekka Rinne posted his second consecutive shutout in Game Two, turning aside all 30 shots he saw while adding two assists in the process.
Tonight, the series shifts to Nashville, and the Preds can't wait to begin the postseason run at Bridgestone Arena.
"Our fans are just unbelievable," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "The support that they've given us all year, and the playoffs is well, is just amazing to me. We expect it's going to be a great atmosphere."
Six different Preds have each scored once thus far in the series while Ryan Johansen leads the team with four points in two games, including three helpers. Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson have also tallied for Nashville and Filip Forsberg has added two assists. Rinne has stopped 59 shots in total over the two games, the first two postseason road shutouts in franchise history.
Chicago stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have not found the back of the net, along with the rest of their teammates. Corey Crawford has been in net for both contests and is expected to start in Game Three as well.
Video: Preds can take first 3-0 series lead in team history
As the Predators look for the first 3-0 series lead in team history, here are three things to watch for:
Simply put, Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne has been sensational through the first two games of the series. The Finnish netminder has stopped all 59 shots he's seen, recording the first two road postseason shutouts in franchise history. In Game Two, he became the fourth goalie in NHL history with multiple assists in a postseason game and just the fourth goaltender in NHL history to record two assists and a shutout in one playoff contest.
The goaltender has said he's simply feeling confident and seeing the puck well, while also giving credit to his teammates in front of him. If Rinne keeps it up, things could get dicey for the Blackhawks.
Video: Neal, Ellis and Zolnierczyk, Ellis preview Game 3
Six different players have scored in the first two games for Nashville, including names like Harry Zolnierczyk and Colton Sissons. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has received the balance he's looking for in his forward lines thus far, and the Preds will look to do the same on home ice tonight.
Video: Laviolette talks Preds returning home for Game 3
Far From Over:
The Predators found themselves in this situation last season - returning home from the road with a 2-0 series lead over Anaheim - only to see that lead evaporate before ultimately winning in Game Seven.
"We had the exact same position last year, and I think a lot of the guys were there and we learned from it," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "Everyone knows it's one game at a time. We've got a good start, but we haven't done anything yet.
"We've been executing really well these two games, but two is not going to cut it. We need two more, so just stay grounded and keep on playing.
When You Go:
Tonight's Game Three, presented by Nissan, comes with an 8:30 p.m. CT start time, with Bridgestone Arena doors set to open at 6:30 p.m. The festivities begin with a pregame Plaza Party presented by Lee Company at 5:30 on the Arena plaza. Tonight's game is mobile device, credit card or Smashville Passport entry only.
Take It In:
Pregame coverage begins locally on Fox Sports Tennessee at 8 p.m. Tonight's game can also be seen nationally on CNBC. Radio coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.
**For door times, plaza party info and giveaway items for Game Three, visit the Preds Playoff Hub**