There is an old saying that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. But in Tuesday night’s Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators looked more than comfortable with the two-goal lead they attained midway through the second period.
After the teams traded first period goals, David Legwand put the Predators ahead 2-1 at the four minute mark of the second.
The scoring play covered nearly the entire rink. Joel Ward started the play in the Nashville zone with a pass from the left boards to Kevin Klein just in front of Pekka Rinne. Klein passed it to Steve Sullivan, and he carried it into the Chicago zone along the right side. With Legwand skating through the slot, Sullivan slipped him a pass, and Legwand was able to convert for his first goal of the playoffs.
“It was a great pass by Kleiner there up to Sully, and Sully found the cross-ice pass,” Legwand said. “Just to get a stick on it and get it by Niemi, not many pucks have been going by him this series, so it is nice to get a couple by him and maybe break his confidence a little bit.”
Just under six minutes later, Shea Weber’s blast from the blue line gave the Predators a 3-1 advantage.
From there, Nashville kept its aggressive forecheck and heavy hitting game plan intact, and sailed to a 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks. More importantly, the Predators took a 2-1 series lead and kept the home-ice advantage they gained by splitting the first two games played in Chicago.
“You definitely do not want to get back sitting on your heels against a team like this,” Weber said. “They are offensively gifted and they can pick you apart so we wanted to maintain puck possession and keep playing in their end.”
In his postgame press conference, Predators head coach Barry Trotz sounded like a proud father when asked about his team’s third period performance.
“If you take anything in the game, I thought in the 3rd period, we did a really good job,” Trotz said. “We didn’t sit back, we just continued to play. To me, that was the most impressive thing if you think about the whole game. To me that was the thing that I was the most satisfied with. Our attitude going into the third period was right where I thought it should be.”
Nashville turned that two-goal lead into the 4-1 final margin at 14:25 when Martin Erat converted on a penalty shot awarded to him after he was fouled from behind by Dustin Byfuglien on a breakaway.
On the penalty shot, Erat skated in coolly before snapping off an impressive wrist shot high to the glove side of Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi.
With Game 4 looming on the horizon Thursday night, the Predators have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. For his part, Sullivan knows that another strong effort Thursday is a must.
“Our job right now is to make sure that Game 4 goes as planned and we try to get that win,” he said. “If not, this game means nothing and it is back to a two out of three with them having home ice. To keep home ice advantage, we need another win.”