So close, yet so far.
The Nashville Predators are just one win away from doing something they haven't done in the history of the franchise - sweep a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That opportunity exists tomorrow night when the Preds host the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of their Round One series at Bridgestone Arena, and with a commanding 3-0 series lead, Nashville could punch its ticket to the Second Round with a victory.
And the Predators would prefer to not give the Hawks one inkling of hope.
"It's the Chicago Blackhawks - they're not dead until the series is over, until we have that fourth win," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "We're not going to approach this game any different. We'll approach it just like we wanted to approach Game One and Two and Three. We're looking to eliminate these guys as quick as we can."
Words like desperation and momentum are thrown around at times like these, and one of them doesn't sit well with Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette whatsoever.
Video: Laviolette says Preds will need desperation to win
"I'm a believer that momentum doesn't work for you," Laviolette said. "Desperation usually rules the day, so we're going to need to be a desperate hockey team tomorrow. We need to play a really good hockey game."
The Predators know that Game Three - a contest that saw Nashville rally from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to win 3-2 in overtime - could've gone either way. Chicago isn't going to go away lightly, a fact well known throughout the Preds locker room.
"As far as desperation goes, I think that would only benefit us to play with that intensity and play that desperate like we're with our backs against the walls," forward Colton Sissons said. "We don't want to keep them hanging around much longer, and [Game Four] is going to be a battle, be the toughest battle for sure."
Four Lines Firing:
Video: Ellis and Sissons talk Preds trying to close series
Whatever you want to call them - the JOFA Line, Joey-Fil-A Line, Joey and the Swedes - everyone knows they're better than most.
Nashville's top trio of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, who put together both of the team's third-period goals in Game Three to force overtime, have been exceptional through the first three games of these playoffs, and well before that.
But the ability for Head Coach Peter Laviolette to utilize not only that combination, but his other three lines, no matter the situation, is paying dividends thus far.
"I don't know if we have a fourth line, per se," Laviolette said. "We have four lines that we've been rolling pretty religiously."
He's not wrong. In Game One, no player saw less than 11 minutes of ice time. In Game Two, only one player wasn't in double digits in ice time. Same in Game Three. Indeed, Laviolette has the confidence to roll four lines for a majority of the game, a key to the team's success over the last week.
"To be able to roll four lines ultimately keeps you in it all the time," Zolnierczyk said. "You're not caught sitting and waiting a few minutes for another shift. You are constantly going, you're constantly in the mix and as a guy that's played on the fourth line and played limited minutes before, it makes a difference to have a regular shift when it's 5-on-5 and stay right in the game all the time."
Did You See That?
Video: CHI@NSH, Gm3: Rinne lunges for insane stick save
It may have gotten lost in the shuffle with the whole "tie it in the third, win it in OT to take a 3-0 series lead" thing, but the save Pekka Rinne didn't think he'd have to make, but did, in the first period of Game Three could go down as one of the top stops of his career.
It was a routine clear by Johnny Oduya on a Chicago penalty kill, but sometime strange things happen when a piece of vulcanized rubber is hopping around on ice.
Instead of ending up behind the net, like physics probably say it should have, and like Rinne was anticipating, the puck took a bounce off of a stanchion between two panes of glass and was headed right for the net that Rinne had just vacated.
With his entire body behind the goal line, the 6-foot-5 goaltender somehow, someway, got enough of his stick back with enough time to change the direction of the puck and away from what could have been a backbreaker of a start to the hockey game.
Thanks to a quick-thinking Finn with even quicker reaction time, the crisis was avoided.
"If you go back and watch the whole thing and see how he lays out and sprawls, he literally dives into the net, gets his stick out front and get just the smallest piece of that puck and just enough to make it go wide of the net," Laviolette said. "Pretty amazing."
"It's just desperation, I guess," Rinne said "I was lucky enough to just get a piece, a tiny piece of the puck, and it ended up missing the net. At the time, it was obviously huge, but it's a kind of disbelief when that happens. You don't expect things like that to happen and it was a weird bounce, but luckily it didn't go in."