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Scoring Balance Lifts Predators to 2-0 Series Lead

Through two games, there hasn’t been one guy setting things on fire — there have been several Predators helping fan the flames.

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

One thing’s for certain through two games — Colorado isn’t making life easy for the Nashville Predators.

For the second consecutive game to begin their Western Conference Quarterfinal series, the Avalanche scored first — on their first shot on goal — in Bridgestone Arena. For the second consecutive game, that lead eventually went away as the Predators held on for a 5-4 victory, earning a 2-0 series lead on home ice for the first time in franchise history.

Three unanswered goals in the second period gave Nashville a brief 3-1 lead, but the Avs pushed back, pulling within one twice, though the Preds were able to hold on for the victory.

As the series shifts to Denver beginning on Monday, here are three things that helped shape the Game 2 victory and two things that need to happen in Game 3:

Balancing act

Five different Predators scored on Saturday, and four different Nashville players netted goals in Thursday’s 5-2 victory.

Only Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg have multiple goals through two games, giving the Predators eight different goal scorers so far in these playoffs.

That was the kind of scoring balance that helped lead Nashville to the Presidents’ Trophy, and it’s already serving the Predators well in the postseason.

Oh, and one more thing: All of the goals have come from forwards.

Third line cleaning up

When Peter Laviolette turned to the line of Colton Sissons, Nick Bonino and Austin Watson to go against Colorado’s top unit of Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, it essentially helped turn Game 1 on its head.

It carried over to Game 2 as well, though those three did combine for two goals (once on the power play and once in a 4-on-4 situation).

But in 5-on-5 play, that unit has been helping contain the Avalanche’s most potent trio.

More special teams

With the numerous penalties called in Game 2, 5-on-5 play was far less prevalent than in Game 1, as the teams played just 39:32 at 5-on-5 on Saturday as opposed to 52:09 on Thursday.

That made special teams mean even more for the Predators, and even though each side got a power play goal, it was Nashville’s kills — including the remainder of what was a 5-on-3 advantage after MacKinnon’s goal with 10:46 left in regulation — that helped keep the bottom line from being different.

But the Predators — the league’s least-disciplined team in the regular season — simply must find a way to curtail the parade to the penalty box. They may have a 2-0 lead in the series despite 20 penalty minutes in two games, but those tend to catch up after a while.

It is, however, a plus to see the power play cash in, as Kevin Fiala did on Saturday:

Fourth line shakeup?

One has to wonder whether the Fisher-Salomaki-Hartman line will remain intact in Denver. It simply wasn’t very good in Game 2 and perhaps it’ll get a change or two for Game 3. If Calle Jarnkrok is good to go (and that’s a large ‘if’), then it’s a giant boost defensively. If not, then Scott Hartnell might slide in there. As far as the first forward out, Salomaki seems to be the choice to sit.

The same goes for the third defensive pairing. There’s a reason Alexei Emelin and Matt Irwin only played 11 minutes each on Saturday. Yannick Weber skated in pregame warmups but did not go, and he could be an option for Monday if Laviolette wants to go that route.

New goal: get the first goal

Of course, the Predators can play from behind. They know how to do that, because it’s been a theme in the second half of the season where they can come back if they do allow the first goal.

But getting that first goal themselves becomes even more paramount on the road. When the puck drops at Pepsi Center on Monday, it will have been 1,447 days since Denver has seen a Stanley Cup playoff game. That’s a long time to go between postseason games, and being able to quiet down that crowd quickly could go a long way toward putting the Avalanche away.