Assuming that variety really is the spice of life (or ice, in this case), the Nashville Predators delivered a delectable performance Tuesday in their first home game of the 2010 postseason.
When it comes to something different, though, the sweetest part for them and the crowd of 16,075 at Bridgestone Arena (more than 1,000 shy of a sellout) was the fact that the their 4-1 victory over Chicago gave them a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series. Never in four previous playoff appearances had Nashville led a series beyond Game 1.
Game Four will take place 7:30 p.m. Thursday, also at Bridgestone Arena.
“Obviously you want to try to gain home-ice advantage, we did that (with a split in the first two games),” left wing Steve Sullivan said. “Now we have to try to keep it. … We’re happy that we’re in this position. It’s a lot better than being down, but to keep home-ice advantage we need another win.”
This triumph came complete with an attack that was atypically diversified and essentially offered up goals a la carte – all of them equally satisfying.
• Joel Ward scored the first first-period goal of the series and gave Nashville a 1-0 lead when he crashed the net and stuffed home a rebound.
• David Lewgand put his team ahead to stay when he capped a well-executed two-on-one with Sullivan on the rush.
• Shea Weber extended the lead fewer than six minutes later with a huge slapshot from just inside the blue line.
• The coup de grace was when Martin Erat was awarded – and converted – a penalty shot with 5:35 to play.
All of that came just two days after the Blackhawks evened the series with a shutout victory at Chicago.
“We were getting them however we could (Tuesday) night and for us, that’s huge,” Legwand, who had two assists in addition to his goal, said. “We were creating our chances by ourselves and moving on from there. I think we have to keep doing that.”
All told, seven different players had at least a point as Nashville matched the franchise record for goals in a playoff game for the second time in this series. Sullivan, with a pair of assists, was the only one other than Legwand who had multiple points.
The Predators even outshot the Blackhawks for the first time in the series. The count was 35-27 overall, including 13-10 in the third period, when they protected their lead by going forward.
“I thought the third period we did a really good job,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Sometimes you tend to sit back. We just continued to play. To me, that was the most impressive thing about the whole game.”
The only time Nashville forced to swallow hard was when it gave up a power-play goal, which tied the score 1-1 late in the first period, 15 seconds after Francis Bouillon was sent off for roughing. Thirty seconds later they were shorthanded again, courtesy of a slashing penalty against Kevin Klein, but killed off that penalty and the other two that followed – both within the first five minutes of the second period.
“That was big,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “They had the momentum going right there, and I think we did a great job when we killed those couple penalties.”
It’s not likely that they could taste victory at that point, but they undoubtedly sensed something was brewing.