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Nashville Predators 5, Colorado Avalanche 4: Preds fend off Avs for 2-0 series lead

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The start was similar, but the finish wasn’t. Still, the Preds take a 2-0 lead to Denver.

Colorado Avalanche v Nashville Predators - Game One Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Nashville Predators overcame another slow start and several return shots from Colorado, but they will head to Denver with a 2-0 series lead after a 5-4 victory on Saturday afternoon.

It’s the first time the Predators have ever started a playoff series at home with two wins.

Former Pred Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring just 2:34 in, beating Rinne from the high slot above his blocker.

Nashville was whistled several times for offside in a short span, then the Preds seemed to ramp up the offensive pace for a flurry or two, but the Avalanche withstood it.

Gabriel Landeskog tripped Kyle Turris and triggered a Nashville power play with 56. 1 seconds left in the first.

Kevin Fiala made that power play count, scoring three seconds before its expiration and tying the contest just 1:01 into the second period.

Colorado’s first power play chance came 3:21 into the second after Mattias Ekholm was called for interference. It lasted all of 16 seconds as David Warsofsky was called for holding to negate the man advantage.

Viktor Arvidsson tore a slap shot past Jonathan Bernier with 10 seconds left of 4-on-4 time, putting the Preds ahead 2-1 with 7:24 left in the second period.

Ryan Johansen broke in and wired one past Bernier for a 3-1 lead during another 4-on-4 situation with 3:28 left in the second, but the two-goal edge was short-lived. Nathan MacKinnon’s backhand found its way past Rinne 36 seconds later to bring the Avalanche back within one.

Colorado made a bad change and Austin Watson made them pay for it, bumping the Preds to a 4-2 lead with 12:44 to play in regulation.

The Avalanche had 1:46 of 5-on-3 power play time and took advantage of it once, as MacKinnon scored his second of the game with 10:46 to play.

Colorado pulled Bernier with 2:06 to play, and Watson narrowly missed a full-length open-net attempt seconds later.

Another empty-net attempt went wide, but Ryan Hartman followed it up with a hustle play, scoring with 69 seconds left in regulation to give the Preds a 5-3 lead.

Alex Kerfoot kept hope alive for the Avalanche with 36.4 seconds to play, scoring with Bernier pulled.

Random Observations

  • Sam Girard was Colorado’s best defenseman on Thursday, even before Forsberg put him in the spin cycle. His absence puts the Avs in a deeper hole.
  • I love afternoon hockey. That is all.
  • Expecting the first 10 minutes from Colorado to be some desperate hockey.
  • Getting the Bonino-Sissons-Watson out on Colorado’s top unit early might curtail some of the frantic pace, though.
  • First shot on goal, again, for Colorado. This one Pekka saw cleanly, and Bourque was wide open in the slot. May have been redirected by Emelin, though.
  • Preds’ first 10 minutes: a bunch of offside calls, and the rest of it hasn’t been good, either.
  • Will a certain Denver columnist blame the puck on knocking Barrie out of the game for a bit? Asking for a friend.
  • Now both sides are struggle-bussing in the back end of the first period.
  • Starting the second period on the power play should provide a lift.
  • Kevin Fiala provides that lift.
  • All sorts of whistles in this period. Guess the rules kicked in for the second period.
  • Bernier didn’t think Arvi was really going to go with the slapper there. Old school, break in and boom it.
  • Which one is it, interference or embellishment? Watson went down while reaching for the puck — IT CANNOT BE BOTH.
  • Austin Watson scores goals at good times. That’s just what he does.
  • This is why we can’t have nice things. Get up two goals and then start committing the undisciplined penalties that will eventually catch up.
  • Like that.
  • MacKinnon’s going to be on the ice around 25 minutes today, and the Avs have needed every second of that to stay in this game.

Super Duper Three Stars of the Game

  1. Sissons/Bonino/Watson. I know, I’m cheating. But this line as a whole has not only produced, but helped with Colorado’s top line, so they’re all getting in together. Don’t like it? Write a column about me.
  2. Arvidsson. More big stuff from Arvy.
  3. Fiala. He lit the match that got things started after a slow start.

Postgame Reaction

Fiala on Arvidsson’s goal:

“It’s awesome. This guy’s working hard, every shift. It was a great shot and a great lead for us.”

On trying to cut back on penalties:

“They have a good (power play). We’ve just got to stay more disciplined and make them just work harder and don’t give them so many (power plays.)”

Watson on his recent scoring success:

“I think I’m seeing the net a little better these days, but you get a couple of them to go for you and you get a little bit of confidence. You don’t forget how to score goals — it might not come easy sometimes — but I’ve been fortunate to get put in some good positions. What a play by (Fiala) to slip it over. It’s nice to be able to score a goal here and there for this team.

On Colorado staying in the game in the third period:

“They’re not just going to give it to us because we finished first in the league. They’re persistent. There’s no quit in them, even there at the end to put another one in to get it back to one goal. They’ve got tons of speed, you have to play with that and you have to be hard on them.”

Johansen on winning the first two games at home:

“It’s a huge advantage for us playing in our building and with the atmosphere we have, we can go out and feed off that and play our game.”

On Arvidsson’s goal:

“I was just skating as fast as I can to be an option there for him, and he took it into his own hands and made a big play for us. It was a huge goal at the time. Arvy did a lot of things well tonight.

Peter Laviolette on figuring out how to play against Colorado to have sustained success:

“You’ve got to play hard, you’ve got to play fast, you’ve got to play for 60 minutes. They’re a good, young, skilled team. I said it after the first game and before the series started — we know what we’re up against. We know we’ve got to compete hard. I thought we did a good job of that.”

On the Sissons-Bonino-Watson line matching up against Colorado’s top line:

“They’ve been good. They’re smart players. If it ends up being the Johansen line, that’s fine too. Really, all of our lines to be honest with you. We started down the road with that, we won a game, we stayed with it and we won another game. To me, it doesn’t really matter. We’re going on the road and all of our guys are going to have to do a good job.”

Tweets of the Night

Game Extras