The 100th Stanley Cup Playoff game in Predators’ history has a reason to be remembered.
Kevin Fiala scored the winner in double overtime and the Nashville Predators defeated the Winnipeg Jets by a 5-4 final in Game 2 on Sunday night to even the series at one game apiece. It’s Nashville’s seventh postseason overtime win in club history, their third in multiple overtimes.
A goal just 27 seconds into the contest was the perfect start for the Preds, and Fiala’s tally at 5:37 of double OT ensured this series will need at least five games as things shift to Winnipeg.
“If you weren’t from Nashville or Winnipeg, you had to like that,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said, referring to the stress-inducing nature of the back-and-forth game.
“Resilient,” Preds center Ryan Johansen simply stated. “We’ve been like that since we’ve been put together as a team. That’s hockey for you, the ups and downs and adversity. You have to fight through and all that matters is we won tonight and the series is 1-1.”
It took Johansen just 27 seconds into the contest to give the Predators their first lead of the series when he fired a shot from the slot to beat Connor Hellebuyck top shelf. Winnipeg responded before the period was out with two quick goals from Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
But five minutes into the middle frame, on the power play, P.K. Subban blasted home his first of the postseason to even the contest at two, and then with less than two minutes to play in the period, Viktor Arvidsson’s slapper from the right side beat Hellebuyck to give Nashville the advantage after 40 minutes.
Brandon Tanev tied the game five minutes into the third, but then Johansen went around Toby Enstrom and roofed a shot for his second of the game just 34 seconds later to give Nashville the lead once more. With 1:05 to play in regulation, Scheifele recorded his second of the night, this time with the extra attacker, to send the Preds to overtime for the first time in the 2018 postseason.
After the first OT solved nothing, Craig Smith found Fiala, who made his move and backhanded a shot into the twine to send the sold-out crowd into a frenzy.
Already down 1-0 in the series, giving up a tying goal late in regulation to force overtime could have been demoralizing for some. It seemed to be the exact opposite on Sunday night in Nashville.
“This group’s been together for a while,” Laviolette said. “We’ve added a few pieces to it, but playoff series I think do that. Winning, losing, overtime wins, overtime losses, I think all of that builds a little bit to your group. It was tough in the third because I don’t think we were at our best. I thought that was [the Jets’] best that we had seen and they were able to tie the game. With that comes one of those momentum swings. Coming out from the overtime, I think we handled it pretty well.”
Now it’s off to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4 and into a building with an atmosphere that rivals Bridgestone Arena – not to mention the hosts, who owned the League’s best home record this season. However, bet you can guess who had the top road record.
Two games in, this series is far from over. Best of five, commence.
“We just kept going,” Subban said. “This is really good for us, this type of adversity early on in a series is great for us and we found a way to win and now we’ve got to go on the road and do what we’ve done well all year and that’s win. For us right now we’ve just got to get some rest and get some good food, some good eats, like I said some good rest and get ready for the toughest road trip of the year.”
JOFA Line Jubilance:
Filip Forsberg was dishing on Sunday. Ryan Johansen was scoring. And Viktor Arvidsson was doing it all. Again.
Forsberg’s three assists in Game 2 marked the second-highest total from a Preds player in a single playoff game, Johansen’s two goals marked his first-career multi-goal postseason contest, and Arvidsson notched his first three-point playoff outing.
Other than that, nothing special.
“Those two are unbelievable,” Johansen said of Forsberg and Arvidsson. “We could talk about those guys for days, but as a line we need to step up our game and take it to another level. I feel like we did our thing tonight, supported each other and worked for each other and found a way to produce too.”
“I thought we played good,” Forsberg said. “We want to be out there to make a difference. Joey (Ryan Johansen) and Arvi (Viktor Arvidsson) played an unbelievable game and I’m just trying to keep up and good as I can.”
So humble, right?
It’s clear how much Forsberg, Johansen and Arvidsson all contributed in Game 2, and if it weren’t for them, Nashville wouldn’t have even had a sniff at overtime. But when the trio is clicking, there’s no telling what’s next.
“We worked hard,” Arvidsson said. “We just supported each other and played in the O-zone a lot I feel like that was a big part. We got the pucks deep, played a simple game and just put pucks in the net and that’s when we’re good.”
Simple as that.
He’s already played the role of Stanley Cup Playoff overtime hero once in his career.
Kevin Fiala’s encore was just as impressive, and few before him have ever done so. In fact, Fiala became one of just nine players in NHL history to have multiple game-winning goals in the postseason before turning 22.
Fiala is also the first Preds player to record multiple overtime goals in club history.
All of a sudden, Fiala has goals in consecutive games and is noticeable just about every time he steps on the ice, a very good sign. And it’s not just Fiala, but his entire line with Kyle Turris and Craig Smith, who have been making a difference through the first two games of this series.
“One series to the next for a line, I believe, is a new opportunity,” Laviolette said. “You have to go out and you have make your way and help contribute for the team. Sometimes when you close the door on one team and you open up another one, it’s almost like a fresh season and a fresh start so we had some of those conversations and they’ve been able to chip in a couple of big goals.”
Ryan Hartman entered the Preds lineup for the first time in this series, taking the place of Miikka Salomaki on the Nashville fourth line.
The Predators are now 7-8 all-time in postseason overtime and 3-3 in games that require multiple overtimes.
Nashville has now won five of their last six playoff overtime games.
Pekka Rinne made 46 saves on 50 shots, his highest career save total in a playoff game.
Game 2 marked Nashville’s 100th Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history with Head Coach Peter Laviolette behind the bench for 50 of them.
The series now shifts to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, before Game 5 comes back in Nashville on Saturday night.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report