The Nashville Predators might be down 2-1 in their series against the San Jose Sharks, but after winning Game Three by a 4-1 final, there’s no lack of confidence in the Nashville locker room. And while the Predators know nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs, they’re also aware of the opportunity that exists to even the series tonight at Bridgestone Arena in Game Four.
“You look at your mindset going into each game, your desperation level probably plays a bigger factor,” center Mike Fisher said after Thursday’s morning skate. “That being said, sometimes when you have a good game, there’s a tendency to sit back and admire it, and you can’t do that by any means. The other team is going to be coming.”
Two items that factored into the success found in Game Three include the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne and the Preds execution on both sides of their special teams’ opportunities.
After giving up the first goal in Game Three, Rinne shut the door the rest of the way, stopping 26 shots in all. The Preds netminder has been solid throughout the series, providing his club with an extra sense of confidence night after night.
“I think he’s played really well in the playoffs,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. “There was a time in Game Three and Game Four [against Anaheim] where I said back then we clearly could have done things better in front of him. He’s given us chance to win hockey games. He’s made a lot of good saves, but he’s made some key saves at the right time that’s either held the game in check or held the game [from being] tied.”
Nashville also tallied twice on the power-play in Game Three, but perhaps more importantly, shut down the Sharks man advantage units on all four of their opportunities. If the Preds are to even the series tonight, their penalty kill will likely need to be impenetrable once more.
“We’ve drawn a couple of really good power-play units to have to defend against with our penalty kill,” Laviolette said. “We’re learning what’s working for us, and I think there’s always small adjustments that you make, and they’re doing the same thing. They’re trying to find a hole and find that space, and we’re trying to take away that hole and take that space. The penalty kill was a big reason we’re able to win a hockey game and the power play too. Specialty teams has factored into this, there’s no question.”