It may not have looked like it at times in the second period of Game Three against the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Predators found a way to get back to their game plan, the same plan that won them Games One and Two.
That plan ended up producing a comeback for the ages, overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the third period to beat Chicago in overtime and take their first-ever 3-0 series lead. Kevin Fiala had the game-winner on a great shot that beat an outstretched Corey Crawford.
As defenseman Ryan Ellis said, the Predators are no strangers to comeback victories.
“We found ourselves down a lot this year going into third periods, and we seem to play our best when we’re down,” he said. “You never want to be down, but when we are, we’re pretty comfortable playing from behind.”
Nashville played a good first period, but found themselves quickly down 2-0 in the second period. Dennis Rasmussen buried a great pass from behind the net to give the Blackhawks their first goal of the series. Then, 10 minutes later, Patrick Kane fired a laser beam past Pekka Rinne on the power play to double the lead.
The Predators went to the penalty kill three times in the second period, and were successful twice. That was enough to help get them back on their feet and back into rhythm. Other than that stretch in the second period, it seemed like the Predators stuck to their guns throughout the game, and got back to causing havoc in the defensive end and utilizing their depth in the offensive end.
“We just wanted to stay on the gas pedal,” said Viktor Arvidsson, who had an assist on the evening. “I think we played a great game. We took a few too many penalties in the second, but otherwise, 5 on 5 we had a lot of scoring chances. We’ve got to execute on more of them, but I feel like we played a great game.”
The numbers and graphs agree with Arvidsson. In 5 on 5 play, the Predators held a 85-50 Corsi advantage over the Blackhawks, according to Natural Stat Trick. They held possession more, and they had more chances to score. This graph also shows just how dominant the Predators were throughout the game.
Aside from an early-game push, the Predators were ruthless in their puck pursuit and scoring chances. All it took was a few ill-advised penalties to give Chicago a 2-0 lead and make it seem like the Blackhawks were the dominant team.
But, that’s the margin of error in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A brace of goals for Filip Forsberg brought the Predators even late in the third period, and took the game to overtime. The Predators knew they couldn’t play the overtime like they did the second period.
“Stay on the gas pedal,” said Ryan Johansen on the team’s strategy in overtime. “We’ve got to keep attacking, if you sit back and give them time and space, they’ve got players that’ll make some plays and they’re dangerous. I thought we did a pretty good job of attacking the game and trying to create offense and just found a way to do it.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette thought that the resilience his team showed in this game will help them in future similar situations.
“I think, again, just going in there with the confidence that we can be successful,” he said. “Our guys, I don’t think that they’re uncomfortable in that situation. It’s not a situation that you want to be in, but they’re not uncomfortable in that situation either. I think that they understand that. I think tonight will help that as well moving forward in the playoffs to know that if we’re down a goal, we can certainly fight back in a game.”
The Predators find themselves in uncharted territory after this thrilling win. For the first time in franchise history, they have the opportunity to complete a sweep. Only a handful of teams have ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit, most recently the Los Angeles Kings against the San Jose Sharks in 2014. However, the Blackhawks have been in this exact situation before. Back in 2011, the eight-seeded Blackhawks were down 3-0 to the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks. It took a Game Seven overtime for the Canucks to finally finish off the Blackhawks.
Johansen, a British Columbia native, remembers that series, and wants to avoid the same fate.
“I remember growing up as a kid in Vancouver, and a few years back, Vancouver was up 3-0 and then it went to Game Seven in overtime,” he said. “A lot of these Hawks players were on that team. We’ve got to realize that the job’s not done yet, and obviously, we’re happy with the result, and we’re in a great position, but those guys aren’t just going to lay over and die.”
The Predators can break out the brooms on Thursday night in Nashville in Game Four against Chicago. Puck drop is schedule for 7 PM central.