Preds fire on all cylinders in 4-1 win over Sharks
It was a do-or-die game three for the Predators; Lose and go down 3-0 or win and bring the series within one game of being tied. Nashville's weapons showed up. So did its special teams play. Outside of a couple potential set-backs, this was a near-perfect game by the Preds.
Nashville needed to be desperate in game three. They needed to dig deeper than they had in games one and two to find a way past San Jose, trying to even up the series during the home-stand.
If this is what the Predators look like as a desperate team, than they need to play that way for the remainder of the playoffs.
It's hard to bottle that same level of energy game-in and game-out, but if Nashville can do so on Thursday night then this series will be a best-of-three for a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
"I think [being desperate] factored into it a lot," said Filip Forsberg on how the Predators started the game. "We want to play like that all the time, especially in the playoffs. There's no games that you can't be desperate. That's the biggest thing, really, in the playoffs."
After allowing the opening goal to Patrick Marleau that strangely ended with Predators goalie Pekka Rinne about 15 feet out of his net, Nashville stormed back in the second period to score two straight times and end the period leading by a goal.
Both goals come off of stellar zone entries by the Predators followed by beautiful set-up passes, although Shea Weber's goal was officially unassisted. Surprisingly, two of Nashville's four goals came from the power play -- where they had previously been two for 31 entering Tuesday's game.
"Our PP hasn't been scoring as many goals as we want," said Forsberg. "In the playoffs, that can be a determining factor in the games. It was tonight."
Nashville's biggest issue so far in this series has been learning to clear the puck out of the zone while on the penalty kill and, more importantly, staying out of the penalty box altogether. Unfortunately, the Preds found themselves in a handful of sticky situations against a dangerous Sharks team that's been lethal on the power play so far in the playoffs.
Five opportunities. Five kills for Nashville. You couldn't have asked for a better performance for a team that had already allowed three power play goals on five attempts to start the series.
"Their power play is so dangerous," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "I thought our PK did a really good job tonight. The power play was good. It moved around; it got some looks. That was the difference in the game."
Most importantly, the offensive weapons that seemingly disappeared for the entire postseason thus far engaged in a big way exactly when the Predators needed them most. Not only were James Neal and Weber finding the back of the net, but Colin Wilson continued his torrid pace and Filip Forsberg finally broke free.
Whatever the reason was, the scoring breakthrough couldn't have come at a better time for Nashville.
"Our guys have played hard," said Laviolette. "The only game we look back on where we say we weren't on our toes and ready to jump was game three in the first round. That happens I think, sometimes. You just don't have your stuff.
"Game one [against San Jose] we had it. It was just a tough break. The power play goal they scored and the building just took over from there. Game two, I liked the way we played. Game three, I liked the way we played. I think our guys are playing pretty good hockey right now."
One of the scariest moments came in the third period as Colton Sissons wrapped his leg around the post coming down the ice on a breakaway. Checking out the GIF below, you can see how Sissons' leg wrapped around the post and most certainly looked like a long-term injury.
(WARNING: This GIF is NOT for those with a weak stomach)
Not for the faint of heart, Colton Sissons leg hits the post. #Preds #SJSvsNSH pic.twitter.com/GGYQFVUIm3— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) May 4, 2016
Just a few minutes later, Sissons miraculously returned to the ice. Medically, it may have just been a stinger for him, but it sure looked like a brutal hit that could have, and could still, kept Sissons out of future games in this series.
"That looked serious to me when it happened," said Laviolette. "[Sissons] was going full speed and hit the post full speed. I can tell you it was great for our bench to see him come back. He's really worked himself into a position. He brings face-offs and speed. A real smart two-way player for us. To get a guy back like that that you're thinking maybe it could be longer term? That was a real positive at the end of the game."
Ultimately, this is the result that Nashville was hoping to be rewarded with in both games one and two. Obviously, game two was the closest to providing such a result, but to bring this series within one game of being tied can't be overlooked.
There are plenty of similarities in games one through three of this series and games four through six of the first round series against Anaheim. If Nashville ties the series up on Thursday night, it'll be interesting to see where they go from there on Saturday night's game five.
Will they get even? Or will they inch closer to elimination?