A dominant start, followed by a final stand led the Preds to defeat the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, to take a 3-1 series lead with a chance to finish things off in Game 5 back in Nashville.
After allowing three goals in the first period of Game 3, the Predators knew they needed an improved effort from the first moments of Game 4. An early 8-0 advantage in shots eventually brought about another jaw-dropping tally from Filip Forsberg, and although the Avalanche pushed back in the third period, the Preds have sent Colorado to the brink.
“It was a gutsy win, really good playoff hockey,” Preds forward Craig Smith said. “It was an exciting game, that’s for sure. We held on and got the win, and we get to go home now; just take care of ourselves and stay a little more disciplined.”
Forsberg put an exclamation point on a dominant 20 minutes from the visitors when he danced around a Colorado defender and deked his way past Jonathan Bernier to give the Preds their first 1-0 lead of the series.
Goals from Colton Sissons and Smith in the second stanza led to a 3-0 Nashville advantage after 40 minutes of play, and although Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Kerfoot tallied for Colorado in the third period, Pekka Rinne and his mates kept Colorado at bay just enough to capture the victory.
“They’re a good team, they’re dangerous offensively and we knew they were going to have a punch,” Predators Captain Roman Josi said. “We’re happy about the win, and we found a way to get it.”
Nashville will now head home for an elimination game, a chance to advance to Round Two of the postseason for the third consecutive spring.
“It’s going to be another battle Friday night,” Josi said. “Every game is just tough. We have to make sure we go home, get some rest and bring our best.”
“It’s big to get one on the road,” Smith said. “We just checked in, made it count and that’s that.”
A day after being pulled from Game 3, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne stated his confidence in his team’s ability to bounce back and steal one on the road before heading back to Nashville.
Not only was Rinne spot on in his prediction, he led the way.
The netminder made 31 saves on the night, and with the exception of a few offensive pushes in the third period, the Predators were stellar when they had to be.
“We did a really good job at the end there,” Rinne said. “We killed the clock pretty good at the end and did a really good job, but it was a battle tonight.”
Started by Forsberg’s third goal of the series, the Preds built a three-goal lead, exactly the start they were hoping for after trailing by four in Game 3. A bounce-back perfroemance was a major talking point in the Nashville locker room the day after, with the Preds set on finding a way to come out of Colorado with at least one win.
“We’re a pretty honest group about ourselves,” Josi said. “Even if we win games, there’s still things you’re trying to correct… It’s so important [to have a good start], and today it won us the game.”
Thanks to that solid start – and a heart-racing finish – the Preds have set themselves up to clinch their fourth series on home ice in the past two years. Those games are always the toughest to win, however, but there’s no denying what a bounce-back win like this can do for the club.
So, when Friday night rolls around, one could predict the Preds will find another level. That’s the plan, just as it was in Game 4.
“It’s huge to have a chance to do that and finish the series at home,” Rinne said. “That’s something that it’s in the back of your head and we want to take advantage of that.”
After missing 16 games with an upper-body injury, forward Calle Jarnkrok returned to the Predators lineup in Game 4. Miikka Salomaki was scratched in Jarnkrok’s place.
Winger Colton Sissons has 11 points in his last 12 playoff games since Game 5 of the Western Conference final, including a goal tonight.
Austin Watson extended his point streak to five games, but saw his career-high, four-game goal streak come to an end.
The Preds and Avs will now head back to Nashville for Game 5, which comes Friday night at Bridgestone Arena, an 8:30 p.m. CT puck drop.