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Preds Used Resiliency, Home Crowd for Victory in Game Three

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne admitted it was upsetting when Patrick Marleau beat him for the first goal in Game Three.

After all, the team that manages to find the back of the net first on any given night finds a way to come out with a victory more often than not. And after coming back from the road in an 0-2 hole, it wasn’t an ideal start.

But the Nashville Predators didn’t let San Jose’s opening tally phase them, scoring four unanswered goal through the final 40 minutes of Game Three to cut the Sharks series lead to 2-1.

“Especially a goal like that, it can be a really momentum killer,” Rinne said of Marleau’s play. “But the way guys responded, it was awesome.”

James Neal got things going on the power play in the middle frame to tie the contest, before Shea Weber, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg ensured the series would need at least five games to be decided.

“It was nice to see that, especially [Neal’s] goal tying 1-1 and [Weber’s] goal going to 2-1,” Rinne said. “After that, I felt like the third period, we played a really strong game. We didn’t sit back, we went after it and wanted to score the next goal. That was a really nice thing to see, and that first goal didn’t really affect us.”

“I think our guys were ready to play last night,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Wednesday after his team’s optional practice. “It was kind of a fluky thing that happened on the ice, and the good thing is, the response I thought was good, just to stay focused and keep playing the game the way we did. I thought we were pretty consistent through the 60 minutes; sometimes [giving up the opening goal] can derail you a little bit, and I don’t think it did.”

Leaders like Neal and Weber combined to give the Preds their first two goals, coming through when their team needed them most. But even if they’re not showing up on the scoresheet, Nashville’s leadership core is making contributions in other ways, perfect for a situation in Game Three when the club finds themselves down on the scoreboard.

“It definitely starts with leadership in the room; we have great leaders in the room,” Laviolette said. “Shea is a tremendous captain, but you go past him and you look at Mike Fisher and Roman Josi, a young leader, James Neal, and then even guys like [Paul] Gaustad jumping out and really contributing, [Barret] Jackman’s been through some wars and some battles, so we’ve got really good character people in the room.”

Already a raucous bunch, the tallies from Neal and Weber woke up the crowd at Bridgestone Arena, a group that can ultimately play a role in the Predators success at this time of the year. Upon returning home from San Jose on Monday, defenseman Mattias Ekholm remarked he was looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere in his first home appearance in Round Two. He wasn’t disappointed.

“This building is one of the loudest in the NHL when we get going, and when we get that goal or something happens out there, the crowd is always there to respond, and we feed off of that,” Ekholm said. “Our crowd is amazing; it’s been that way all year, and especially now in the playoffs, they have really come together. It’s been so loud, and it’s so much fun to play in front of them.”

Any frustration Rinne felt after a 1-0 Sharks advantage was quickly squashed, thanks to contributors on both sides of the glass. Before he and his teammates head back to California for Game Five on Saturday night, they’re hoping for one more dose of the Seventh Man in Game Four tomorrow.

“They never disappoint,” Rinne said. “It was such a fun atmosphere again. Just skating on the ice, you feel the energy and you gain so much from them. I just want to thank our fans, it’s always great to play at home.”

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