NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rookie Filip Forsberg had his first career hat trick and the Nashville Predators forced a sixth game in their first-round Western Conference series by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Thursday night.
A triple-overtime loss in Chicago early Wednesday pushed the Predators to the brink of elimination, and these teams appeared headed for the third overtime game of this series tied at 1-1 after two.
James Neal then got the go-ahead goal in the opening minute of the third to start a flurry of three goals in a span of less than 2 1/2 minutes and the Predators pulled to 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Saturday night in Chicago.
Forsberg finished his hat trick with an empty-netter in the final minute. Colin Wilson also had a goal, and Neal had an assist.
Brad Richards had a goal and an assist, and Kris Versteeg also scored for Chicago.
The Blackhawks missed on closing out their first postseason series since losing the Western Conference finals last year in seven games.
The Predators have won the last two first-round series they’ve played, even though they missed the postseason the past two years. That’s why Peter Laviolette was hired as coach not only to take them back to the playoffs but take Nashville on a deep run.
Facing elimination, the Predators certainly opened and finished strong. When the Blackhawks got the man advantage 3 minutes into the game, Nashville turned the final 45 seconds into its own short-handed advantage taking several shots at Darling.
That set the pace for a very frantic period as the teams played 9:25 between whistles before Richards put a wrister five-hole past goalie Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead at 13:27. The Predators answered back 65 seconds later as Forsberg scored his second this series with a wrister off a faceoff, and the teams went to the first intermission tied for the third straight game.
In the second, Nashville had a man advantage and couldn’t convert. Wilson also missed the puck on a pass from Mike Ribeiro trying to shoot into an open net behind Darling with the goalie managing to reach back and help poke it away. The Blackhawks turned that into a 3-on-1 with Rinne knocking away Bickell’s shot and then pivoting to stop a backhander from Patrick Kane on the other side.
Neal, who scored his first goal this series, put Nashville up 2-1 just 47 seconds into the third. He scored on a wraparound getting a little bit of help from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and his left skate in the way as Darling tried desperately to close the gap with his glove.
That goal set off a scoring flurry in a series that has been tied for more than 216 minutes. Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival went to the box for interference, and Wilson made up for his earlier miss with a slap shot past Darling at 3:02 to make it 3-1.
Forsberg, not among the Calder Trophy finalists announced earlier in the day, got his second with his own slap shot 12 seconds later allowing Nashville fans to relax, breathe and celebrate. Forsberg sent hats flying onto the ice with his fourth goal this series with 10.3 seconds left.
Notes: Wilson now has a franchise-record five goals in a single series. … The Predators now are 5-6 all-time in Game 5s. … Nashville went 14-2-3 when tied after two periods in the regular season. … Versteeg scored his first goal this series with 5:08 left in the third with a snap shot past a diving Rinne.
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