The Predators took care of business in Game Four.

Story written by Mark Harris

After what was an abysmal performance in Game Three, it felt as if the Nashville Predators could’ve entered Game Four on Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche in only two ways: dig themselves into a crater-sized hole as they did in Game Three and turn this series wide-open or get back to playing their style of hockey from the opening puck drop.

Not by any means was it a perfect outing, but the latter of the two did happen as the Predators earned a 3-2 win pushing their series lead to 3-1.

Game Four truly had it all. From aggressive hitting to highlight reel goals to questionable penalties and of course the coin-flip standards of the NHL as to what is goaltender interference.

We can go ahead and get the goaltender interference drama out of the way simply because there is no explaining it. Let your eyes and brain be the judge on this third period tally that was deemed a good goal. It’s a safe bet that if you ask the closest human next to you while reading this they’ll have a different opinion.

Now, back to what else unfolded on the ice.

A quick gist of what happened was the Predators flexed their muscle against an inferior Avs team, but not for the entire 60 minutes.

Nashville was fast right out of the gates, crisp with its passing and its cycling was something we haven’t seen in quite some time. The opening five minutes of the game were absolutely dominated by the Predators, which is something you couldn’t have said about the first three games of the series.

The Predators couldn’t afford another bad start in this series. They couldn’t see the Avalanche jump to a 1-0 lead within their first two shots of the game for what would’ve been the fourth straight game. Nashville couldn’t have its back against the wall in the biggest game of this series thus far away from home for the second straight game.

The difference Wednesday was that they were the aggressor while the Avalanche looked like the bottom seeded team in the Western Conference, as they are, early on and for the opening 40 minutes of play.

While a one-goal win doesn’t scream ‘great performance,’ for the most part the Predators have to be pleased with how they played on Wednesday night. They answered the call after being dominated in Game Three and did so in their style. They were the more annoying side to play against,  they were the side that was creative breaking into the zone, they won battles along the wall and most importantly they weren’t obviously trying to force things as they have been during stretches throughout this series.

Filip Forsberg’s goal may have set a bit of a tone as well, just maybe.

The team wearing yellow and white didn’t look like pretenders in the opening 20 minutes of play to say the very least and that trend continued into the second intermission as well with the Preds on top 3-0. Colton Sissons and Craig Smith were the other two Nashville goal scorers.

Putting some numbers to back-up the idea that Nashville was back to playing its style, this brings us to the biggest takeaway from not only the first 40 minutes of play, but of the entire night. The high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 play were all coming from the Predators.

Through two periods, the Preds held a 9-3 edge in that department and the final tally on the night was 11-6 in favor of Nashville.

Let’s go back and check what those numbers looked like through the first three games. The Avalanche won the battle 13-5 in Game One, Game Two was rather boring in that department with a 2-2 split and Game Three the Avs had the advantage at 7-6.

We may be getting onto something here that when teams create chances in high-danger areas they may have a better chance to finish the night with a win. We already know that the Predators are extremely lethal when they can get to those tough areas on just a somewhat consistent basis, but on Wednesday night they certainly made an effort to get some high-quality scoring chances and shots off.

The Predators are also probably a pretty lethal bunch if they stay out of the penalty box, but they won’t let us find that out because they simply can’t stop taking penalties.

While the high-danger chances were the positive of the night, the penalty taking was the negative which by this point is an old record you’ve heard dozens and dozens of times this season if you’re a Preds fan.

Both Ryan Hartman and Sissons took bad penalties just seconds apart just under five minutes into the final period. Gabriel Landeskog made them pay and it was game on from that point.

Sidenote on Landeskog, it was a rather wild night for him. Early on he suffered a pretty nasty cut courtesy of his teammate’s stick and then he decided to throttle fellow Swede Mattias Ekholm for an unknown reason.

The Avs’ final tally came with 8:59 left in regulation during 5-on-5 play, but there is no doubting that Landeskog’s power play goal breathed new life into Colorado which made things far from easy for Nashville down the stretch.

In total, the Predators wracked up 14 penalty minutes on Wednesday night giving them a whopping 50 already in this series.

It turns out it isn’t fair to assume the most penalized team during the regular season is going to just completely flip that switch in the postseason, because that obviously ins’t the case.

What is the case however is that Nashville’s penalty kill continues to bail the team out of dire situations. After going 4-for-5 on the penalty kill on Wednesday night, the Preds have killed off 16 of the 18 power plays they’ve faced through this series.

Other notes:

  • In his first game back since March 13, Calle Jarnkrok logged 11:43 of ice time including 49 seconds of power play time to go along with one shot, one hit and one takeaway.
  • Ryan Johansen left down the tunnel during the second period after taking a stiff shot from Landeskog while nearly crouched down on his knees. He wasn’t on the bench to start the third period, but returned to the action just as the Avalanche made it a one-goal game. With that being the case, perhaps holding him out was just precautionary.
  • Forsberg now has three goals and two assists during this series. In 24 career games played against the Avalanche in his career, Forsberg has registered 16 goals and 14 assists.

This series returns to Nashville on Friday night with Game Five set for 8:30 p.m. CST.

Fancy Stats

Box Score

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