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Preds Clinch Central Division Again, Come Back to Beat Blackhawks

Nashville Scores Five Unanswered in Regular-Season Finale to Repeat as Division Champs

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Recap: CHI 2, NSH 5

Predators become Central Division champs with 5-2 win

Viktor Arvidsson set a franchise record for goals in a season with 34, and the Predators clinched the Central Division with their 5-2 victory

  • 04:18 •

The Central Division crown is staying in Tennessee.

Dante Fabbro's first started the comeback, and Viktor Arvidsson's record-breaking 34th was the winner as the Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a 5-2 final to clinch the Central Division and home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the victory Nashville finished the 2018-19 season with exactly 100 points in the standings, good for a second-consecutive division title, and the Preds will face the Dallas Stars in the first round of the postseason as a result.

As the game got older, the Predators got better. They scored twice in the second and three more in the third on their way to accomplishing one of the goals that was set forth way back in September during training camp.

Now, on this first week of April, that goal has been accomplished.

"We never stopped," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We were relentless tonight from start to finish. The first period, I just walked in and said, 'Well that didn't go our way.' It was tough because it's such an important game. Guys have been fighting for something. You walk in after the first, and it doesn't go your way. What you really have to love about what they did was they never quit on it, and they kept fighting for it and eventually got it done.

"Every time you can hang a banner it's great for your organization," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "We're in such a tough division, and I think the guys can be really proud of that. It's a big accomplishment, and it wasn't easier this year. We had a lot of up and downs, but we stuck together and it's a great accomplishment for the organization."

The Predators had a number of chances in the opening 20 minutes, but it was the Blackhawks who found themselves with a 2-0 advantage after the first period.

However, the second stanza belonged to Nashville, and this time, they had something to show for it. Midway through the period, Dante Fabbro walked in and roofed a shot past Cam Ward for his first NHL goal to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Video: CHI@NSH: Fabbro picks the corner for first NHL goal

"I honestly didn't have much going through my mind, I was just pretty amped up about it," Fabbro said of his goal. "The first guy I saw when I turned around was [Ryan Johansen], so he gave me a big bear hug. It's such a surreal feeling and I couldn't have done it with a better group of guys."

Then, with less than two minutes to play in the period, Filip Forsberg launched a rocket from the point to even the score at 2-2 through 40 minutes.

Video: CHI@NSH: Forsberg hammers a slap shot past Ward

It wasn't long into the third - just 3:33 to be exact - when Arvidsson sniped his 34th of the season to set a franchise record for goals in a single campaign and give the Preds the first and only lead they'd need all night.

"It's awesome, I'm so happy for him," Forsberg said of Arvidsson. "It's going to be a race going forward in the coming years between the two of us, but I'm so excited for him. I don't know how many games he played but just doing it in that few games is unbelievable and I'm excited going forward for that."

Video: CHI@NSH: Arvidsson sets Predators record with PPG

Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino added insurance before it was all over, and Pekka Rinne turned the Blackhawks aside 31 times for his 30th victory to finish the season.

The Predators were certainly taking a few moments to enjoy the win, but the Dallas Stars are waiting, and it won't be long before Nashville's fifth consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs commences in their home barn.

"It came down to Game 82, just how the fans wanted it," Forsberg said. "Big win at home against the Blackhawks, and it set us up on a good spot. Now, the fun begins for real."

Video: CHI@NSH: Sissons pads lead with empty-netter

Division Champs - Again:

The Predators weren't about to let another Central Division title slip through their fingers.

In a game that didn't go their way at the start, it would've been easy for the group to say it wasn't their night. But that's not how they operate. Not under these circumstances with so much on the line.

They didn't buckle, and because of it, the Preds will raise at least one more banner next fall.

"It's been a tough year just because we were dealt with a lot of stuff," Laviolette said. "We use that slogan 'Rise Up' at the beginning and we talked about it - rise up from injury, rise up from whatever comes our way, fight for something and rise up. I thought the players, especially tonight, you think about it with knowing that St. Louis won it before us and down 2-0 in our building, our guys, they never stopped. They really competed hard and they made sure they got it done."

There was a time where it looked as though the Preds may have lost their chance to even be in this position. On March 23 in Winnipeg, a game that many thought would decide the eventual winner of the division, Nashville fell 5-0.

"We were pretty down after that Winnipeg loss," Arvidsson recalled. "We kind of knew that was the game that we had to win in Winnipeg, and they lost two games right after that, so we kind of stayed in it. We kept battling and we've been winning."

Video: CHI@NSH: Bonino seals win for Predators

Indeed, they did.

Even in these final two games of the regular season, Nashville found themselves down 2-0 after the first period, a situation that hadn't been kind to them all season. All they did in both of those contests was come back to prevail, Saturday's triumph bigger than any other over the past seven months.

And for an 82-game stretch that had plenty of moments of frustration, disappointment and dismay, in the end, the good outweighed the bad.

As Filip Forsberg said, now the real fun begins.

"I'm really proud of our guys just for how hard they competed and how hard they worked for it," Laviolette said. "They should be proud, too. We wake up tomorrow and it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs so it's a whole different bird, but I've said this a couple of times, you can't play the Stanley Cup Playoffs in December, you can't even play them today. You can only play what's dealt to you and that's the regular season and I thought our guys were incredible tonight."

Video: Predators become Central Division champs with 5-2 win

Notes:

Dante Fabbro is the 181st player to score a goal for the Predators in franchise history.

By starting Saturday's game, Pekka Rinne tied Miikka Kiprusoff (623) for second-most all-time in games played by a Finnish-born goalie.

Forwards Rem Pitlick, Miikka Salomaki, Rocco Grimaldi (upper-body), Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau, as well as defensemen Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin, were scratched for Nashville on Saturday.

The Predators will face the Dallas Stars in Round One of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The full first round schedule will be released at 9 a.m. CT on Sunday morning. Stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com for that and so much more as the postseason begins in a few days time.

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