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Preds Cool, Calm, Collected as Series Shifts to Winnipeg

With Double Overtime Win in Game 2, Nashville Trying for at Least Another Split in Canada

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

While still tempered and focused, the mood during the Predators flight to Winnipeg on Monday was much more optimistic than it might have been.

Kevin Fiala's backhand strike at 5:37 of the second overtime in Game 2 made sure of that, and now the Preds are headed to Manitoba with a tied series and into an environment that is often just as intimidating Nashville's home rink is for the visitors.

The Jets are perfect in these playoffs at Bell MTS Place and have not lost in Winnipeg since Feb. 27, a 6-5 defeat at the hands of, you guessed it, the hockey club from Tennessee.

The Preds' current mentality is likely to provide more of a help than a hindrance as the Predators take the ice for Games 3 and 4, and it certainly did the trick on Sunday evening in Nashville as well.

Leading 4-3 in the final minutes of regulation, Winnipeg evened the contest with 65 seconds to play, forcing the first overtime appearance for either club in these playoffs. And instead of letting themselves deflate, the Predators found a way to turn whatever negative energy may have transpired - however miniscule it was - and turn it into one, and then two overtime sessions that saw them carry the play.

Where does that calm, cool, collectedness come from in the springtime?

"It's just from learning to win in different ways all year," Predators center Nick Bonino said. "We've won from behind, we've won with leads; you have to win every way in the playoffs… We were confident in the locker room. Obviously, it could go either way in overtime, but I thought we played a really solid OT. We had a lot of chances, we didn't give up too many, and then a great goal from that line."

Video: Bonino, Smith comment on series shifting to Winnipeg

Indeed, it was, the perfect dish from Craig Smith across to Kevin Fiala who outwaited Connor Helelbuyck before guiding the puck into the twine. As nerve-wracking as overtime may have been for the 17,275 in attendance at Bridgestone Arena, there was a different feeling on the Nashville bench, a feeling that only comes from a team who has experienced this before.

Finding wins in five out of their last six Stanley Cup Playoff overtime games is proof there may be a bit more than luck on the Predators' side in those situations.

"It's a lot of fun, especially at home," Smith said of postseason overtime. "The crowd was awesome last night. They were into it, kept us into it, too, and it's about as exciting as a playoff game can get."

"As a group, there's a calm confidence about us," Nashville defenseman Matt Irwin said. "We felt like we weren't losing that game. They tied it late, you don't expect them to roll over and die, and it just makes for good hockey… In overtime, every guy that went over the boards knew they had a job to do and there's a big goal out there for someone to be a hero."

Video: Laviolette talks challenge facing Preds in Winnipeg

It remains to be seen who might play that role for the visitors on Tuesday night, but the Preds know, at the very least, their efforts in this series have been good enough to win. While only one has worked out thus far, they'll take that effort against a Winnipeg club that's just as dangerous as they are.

"You don't want to go there down two," Bonino said. "They do still have home ice now and we've got to get one back to get home ice back, but at the end of the day we're happy with the win. We got the split, now we'll go up there and try to take care of business."

If they do, that flight back home won't carry any champagne on board, but it would still provide a confidence necessary at this time of the year to find success.

"It could be a 2-0 [series in our favor], too," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We played pretty good in the first game and it didn't go our way, so last night the guys stuck to it… We said after Game 1 we thought we did a lot of the right things, we felt we did a lot of the right things in Game 2, and we'll try to that on the road in Game 3."

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