NASHVILLE – Peter Laviolette has been through enough postseasons to know how it feels the day after a long, arduous playoff game.
“Both teams come into the rink tired,” the Nashville Predators coach said. “One has a smile on its face and one doesn’t.”
The Predators weren’t beaming but they were still in pretty good spirits on Thursday morning, about 12 hours after the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals to beat them, 4-3, in double overtime. It was a tough outcome for the Predators, who had a 3-0 lead after the first period before Scott Darling stymied them the rest of the way and the Blackhawks found their offense. Now they’ll go for the split at home when they host the Blackhawks in Game 2 on Friday night.
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Despite the loss the Predators were pretty happy with their game. They fired 42 shots on Darling, who took over in the second period after Corey Crawford was pulled. They had some great scoring opportunities. They had the crowd decidedly on their side.
The question now is, how do the Predators respond from this? The Blackhawks have been down this unpredictable playoff path before; you have good games, bad games, crushing games and endurance-testing games. They’ve handled adversity well, as evidence by their last few postseasons. The Predators are now getting their playoff mettle tested and know they need to grab Game 2.
“You don’t want to give up those first two games, especially at home,” said Colin Wilson, who scored two of the Predators’ first period goals in Game 1. “We’ll see if tomorrow is different.”
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The Blackhawks always talk of not getting too high or low emotionally this time of year. Pekka Rinne, who’s gone through several postseasons with the Predators, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s one game. You have to stay even keel,” he said. “It’s Game 1; it’s a long postseason. We’ve worked so hard to get into this situation. You have another opportunity. You can’t let it slip right now. Just focus and take the good out of Game 1.”
The Predators weren’t smiling as much as they would have had they won Game 1. That’s behind them. It has to be, or they could be facing a steeper challenge, and an 0-2 deficit, heading into Chicago.
“One game usually has nothing to do with what happened with two days ago or four days ago or Game 1 going to Game 7. Every game has its own identity,” Laviolette. “You have to get yourself ready to play mentally, physically, the grind of it. Our guys will be ready. They’ve proven all year they’re a competitive group. We’ll be ready to play.”