Playoff berth clinched.
Colton Sissons and Filip Forsberg each scored twice and the Nashville Predators rallied on the road for the sixth consecutive time on Friday night in Denver, prevailing 4-2 over the Avalanche.
As a result, the Predators have punched their ticket to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the fourth consecutive season Nashville will appear in the postseason.
“It feels good,” Sissons said of the berth. “That’s what every team suits up for in training camp is to get to the postseason. As we found out last year, as long as you get in, you just never know what can happen. We’re pumped about it, and to be the first… it’s pretty special.”
In addition to a postseason berth, the Predators continue to rewrite their own record books. Nashville now has a point in 14 consecutive games (13-0-1) which ties the mark for the longest overall point streak in club history. Plus, Friday’s win gave the Predators points in 14 consecutive road games to set a franchise record in the category.
Sissons connected on two gorgeous shots to either corner of the net to guide Nashville to the win. Forsberg scored the tying marker early in the second period to make sure the victory was of the comeback variety just one more time.
“I don’t think there’s a lack of confidence we’re going to score goals or that we can win or how to win a game when it comes to the end,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think the guys are confident with that, and that’s just the way it’s presented itself on the road… We played the hand that was dealt and the guys played it well.”
Sissons opened the scoring at 17:26 of the first when he collected a cross-ice pass from P.K. Subban, picked his mark and flung the puck over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov.
The Avalanche offense, which has been dominant of late, put the home team ahead with two goals in four minutes spanning the first and second periods. Nathan MacKinnon’s 36th of the campaign came on a one-timer off the post and in, and at 3:28 of the second, Gabriel Landeskog managed to slip the puck just under Juuse Saros’s pad.
Nashville would trail for exactly three minutes. Forsberg took two swings at a bouncing puck before connecting and swatting it into the net. Later in the frame, Sissons’s blast off a feed from Ryan Hartman gave the visitors the lead.
Saros and his defensemen were excellent as the Avalanche pushed to tie the contest, and then with just over a minute to play, Viktor Arvidsson fed Forsberg for his second of the night and 20th of the season to punch their ticket.
“It’s a good feeling in here, but we’ve got a lot of work to do down the stretch,” Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “Tonight, on [the second half of a] back-to-back and the travel and everything, it was a good effort by the guys, and we got the win, which was huge for us.”
Denver, CO – March 16: P.K. Subban #76 of the Nashville Predators jumps on teammate Colton Sissons #10 to celebrate a goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.
Denver, CO – March 16: P.K. Subban #76 of the Nashville Predators jumps on teammate Colton Sissons #10 to celebrate a goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Michael Martin
Remember who had a hat trick last May to send the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history?
The stage wasn’t quite as big on Friday night in Denver, but there was still plenty at stake, and just like he did then, Colton Sissons not only showed up, but put up.
Sissons tallied twice in the 4-2 win over the Avalanche, giving the Preds their first goal of the night, and then potting what ended up as the game-winner to help his club become the first in the NHL this season to clinch a playoff berth.
“He’s a competitor,” Laviolette said of Sissons. “Some people rise up in big moments and some people can’t, too, they don’t know how to respond to the big moments. He seems to be proving himself as a guy that steps up in big situations when you need him.”
“I’ve always prided myself on showing up when it matters most and just being counted on upon as a reliable teammate,” Sissons said. “The bigger the stakes, you have to raise your level, and I was able to prove that last year in playoffs a little bit and I’ve continued to build on that this season.”
While the Predators know getting into the playoffs won’t guarantee anything, they can take pride in knowing they were the first to do so in 2018, hopefully the first of many milestones yet to come this spring.
“You take a little pride in that,” Laviolette said of clinching first. “The guys knew with a win tonight they would clinch, and I think they fought hard for it. I really liked our game tonight. We played a fast team that was desperate and competitive and really good at home… they came hard right at the beginning, so I really liked our guys and the way we competed and fought for that win.”
The Predators are now 7-1-1 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, the best mark in the NHL.
Defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Alexei Emelin, along with winger Scott Hartnell were healthy scratches for Friday’s contest in Denver.
Nashville travels nearly across the entire country tomorrow morning to prepare for the third and final part of their three-game road trip in Buffalo against the Sabres.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report