A 3-2 advantage entering the third period became a six-goal outburst following three scores in under three minutes near the end of regulation, as the Preds took down the Chicago Blackhawks to even their Western Conference Quarterfinals series at one apiece.
Nashville entered the contest down in the series after a 4-3 double overtime defeat, but the Predators showed they’d put the tough loss in the past by jumping out to an early lead.
“I thought we played a real solid game,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “We came out with a lot of energy in the first period again. We kept that energy over 60 minutes and had a great [result].”
Colin Wilson began Game Two in a very familiar way. The center potted his third of the playoffs by again going top shelf, short side on Corey Crawford to put Nashville ahead 1-0.
Roughly 16 minutes later, Josi’s individual effort put the Predators back ahead just before the first-period horn after Patrick Sharp had tied the contest. The defenseman caught a pass near the bench and weaved his way around two Hawks defenders prior to wiring a wrister into the cage with four seconds left. The home team’s strong first period performance wasn’t wasted as they held a 2-1 advantage on the scoreboard after 20 minutes.
When the dreaded second period began, the Predators made quick work of a four-minute penalty kill and answered the Hawks’ tying goal to maintain a one-goal edge through two periods. Including Chicago’s three-goal effort in the middle frame in Game One, Nashville had been outscored 17-3 in the second over their last 10 games prior to Friday.
Finally, in the third, goals from Filip Forsberg, Mike Santorelli and Craig Smith’s second of the evening sent the Predators out on a high note and set a franchise record for tallies in a postseason contest in front of a raucous 17,208 at Bridgestone Arena.
“Man, I didn’t think we’d top Game One to be honest, but tonight was ridiculous,” Nashville D-man Seth Jones said. “The atmosphere was so awesome. It was so loud you could barely talk to your teammates on the bench. You’re screaming to each other just trying to talk about plays or the things you have to do on the ice. The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
“It’s big, you can see it as a result of our hard work,” Smith said. “We stayed with it, pressured the puck and created turnovers. We keep that up and good things are going to happen. We had a lot of people chipping in. Everyone on the bench was having a lot of fun. At the same time, we played good hockey. As a result of it, you can see our hard work was just phenomenal tonight.”
The series now shifts to Chicago where the Predators will try to build upon not only their first victory in the series, but dating back to the regular season, the first win in their previous eight games.
Second Period Redemption:
Lackluster showings in the middle frame have haunted the Preds in recent days - including giving up three goals in the period to the Hawks in a Game One loss. Entering the second with a one-score lead on Friday, Nashville was simply hoping to draw some positives from what had been a nightmare stretch the past 10-plus contests.
When Paul Gaustad took a four-minute high-sticking penalty at 3:30 of the second, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said following the game that there was something of a “here we go again” feeling on the Predators bench. In Game One, it was a power-play goal early in the second for Chicago that allowed the Hawks back into the contest and started a stretch of four-straight scores en route to an extra time win.
“It looked familiar to last game,” Laviolette said. “We came out, took some penalties and it could have swung the other way. The penalty killers did a great job. The first half of that period, that was difficult with Goose in the box, because he’s one of our main guys.
“But I thought the penalty kill did an excellent job of getting us through that stretch and were able to get going at the end of that period.”
Nashville’s penalty kill only allowed a single shot on goal during the four-minute stretch and gave the Preds a boost for the remainder of the contest.
“[That was] huge, we killed a four-minute penalty there and another minor.” Jones said. “Six minutes of penalties and we killed them off. It gave us a lot of momentum in the third. I thought we controlled the second half of the second as well which kind of helped us take momentum into the third period."
Even when Patrick Kane scored on a partial breakaway to tie the game, the Predators kept their resolve and received Smith’s second of the postseason four minutes later. The winger’s chance in the low slot eventually proved to be the game winner.
“In those areas you can really gain some momentum off of them, which we did,” Smith said. “It was big, I thought our penalty kill was exceptional through the four-minute penalty.”
At 9:12 of the second period, Preds Captain Shea Weber knocked the puck around the end wall before receiving a hit from Brandon Saad. The blueliner skated gingerly to bench and down the tunnel to the Nashville locker room.
Weber did not return to the contest with a lower-body injury. No update was available following the Predators 6-2 triumph.
The Preds set a postseason franchise record for the most goals scored in one game with six. Nashville also set a playoff club record for the fastest three goals scored, potting three in a span of 2:19 in the third period.
Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Mike Santorelli all scored their first career Stanley Cup Playoff goals tonight, with Santorelli’s coming in his postseason debut.
Pekka Rinne recorded his franchise-leading 14th career postseason victory, stopping 24 of 26 Chicago shots.
The Predators are now 3-7 all-time in Game Twos.
Hawks netminder Corey Crawford has allowed nine goals in four periods of plays in the series.
With Nashville’s win to tie the series at 1-1, Game Five will take place on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds head to Chicago for two games, with Game Three set for a 2 p.m. CT start on Sunday afternoon. Game Four is Tuesday at 8:30 CT from the United Center.