David Legwand understood perfectly what one man thought of his performance Sunday. The collective opinion of 16,075 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday – his next time out – was equally obvious.
Legwand had a hand in each of the Nashville Predators’ first three goals (one goal, two assists) and was a major contributor to their 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
In so doing, he atoned for what was considered a sub-standard outing in Game 2 two nights earlier and created many of the cheers raised by the home crowd for Game 3.
“We spoke after Game 2, and I think he knew he didn’t have a real good game,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He responded with a real strong one (Tuesday). When Leggy’s giving the type of game he gave us, it really gives us a lot more options.”
Legwand created the first goal when he carried the puck around the back of the net and fed Steve Sullivan for a one-timer. Sullivan’s shot was stopped, but Joel Ward took care of the rebound.
He scored the second when he used his speed to join Sullivan in a two-on-one. Sullivan stayed wide and centered to Legwand, who redirected the puck past goalie Antti Niemi, for what was the game-winner.
He again had the secondary assist when Shea Weber made it 3-1 with a big slapshot.
“I think it was just a solid all-around game by 20 guys,” Legwand said. “Anytime you beat a team like that 4-1 it’s going to be a solid game.”
He finished with a plus-3 rating, tied with Joel Ward for game-high, and blocked three Chicago shots. The only area he struggled was in the faceoff circle, where he lost six of nine tries.
With his three points he tied J.P. Dumont as Nashville’s all-time leading playoff scorer with 11 points. Legwand has three goals and eight assists. Dumont has six goals and five assists.
“Leggy had an unbelievable hockey game,” Sullivan said.
Goalie Pekka Rinne created one of the most dramatic moments of the contest when he nearly scored the game’s first goal – against himself.
A little more than six minutes into the opening period, he came out of his crease to play the puck. He moved it to the backboards, but the carom came almost straight back and into the crease.
Rinne dove on the loose puck and covered up for a faceoff.
“The puck was kind of rolling and bouncing, and I just tried to make a soft play,” Rinne said. “It’s never good when you are scared to play the puck. You have to be real comfortable, and I was a little bit in between. I didn’t know what to do, and that’s what happened.”
The 6-foot-5 Rinne said the puck was far enough underneath him that it never really threatened to cross the goal line.
“I kind of caught it under my belly,” he said. “The only thing I was worried about was that I was going to slide into the net.”
First goal, first-timers
Each team’s first goal was the first career playoff goal for the players who scored them.
Ward, 29, made it 1-0 when he scored seven minutes into the contest. It was his third career playoff appearance.
Tomas Kopecky made it 1-1 4:35 later. The 28-year-old was in his 15th career playoff game.
The Predators announced Tuesday afternoon that they signed 24-year-old forward Linus Klasen to a two-way contract for the 2010-11 season.
The undersized Swede (5-foot-8, 175 pounds) played briefly in North America back in 2004-05 but spent the last three seasons in the Swedish Elite League. He tied for fifth in scoring this past season with 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists).
Klasen will earn an NHL salary of $675,000, and 10 percent of that if he plays in the AHL.
The Predators have allowed four goals in the first three games of the series and no more than two in a single contest.
They gave up two or fewer only three times in their previous two playoff series’ combined.