Kevin Fiala finds redemption for Nashville Predators with OT goal for 3-0 series lead

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange  |  April 18, 2017 at 9:53 AM
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Chicago Blackhawks finally cracked the code on Pekka Rinne and owned a two-goal lead Monday night in the third period of Game 3 in their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

But none of that mattered when the Nashville Predators chased them down on two Filip Forsberg goals that forced overtime, then finished the comeback courtesy of Kevin Fiala's redemption.

Denied on two golden chances earlier in the extra period, Fiala converted his third point-blank opportunity at 16:44 to deliver a 3-2 win and a 3-0 series lead for Nashville early Tuesday.

Just eight minutes after midnight, Fiala took a sweet backhand pass from James Neal, deked to his backhand side and slipped the puck under Corey Crawford for his second goal in as many games as the sellout crowd of 17,204 filled Bridgestone Arena with an ear-shattering din.

"He's a young kid in a man's league," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of the 20-year-old Fiala, who scored 11 goals in 54 regular-season games. "It's good for a young kid in a big situation like that to score a really patient goal. He had lots of looks, opportunities."

Fiala's snapper from the slot with 9:20 left in overtime tipped off Crawford's glove and just over the crossbar. Just over three minutes later, Fiala had half an open net at which to shoot, but his wrister caromed off Crawford's left skate.

Fiala threw his head back in disbelief, but the third time was his and Nashville's charm.

"It was great," he said. "It was very important to win the game and go up 3-0. They are a great team."

After absorbing 1-0 and 5-0 losses in the first two games at the United Center, Chicago appeared headed for a momentum-shifting victory on road ice. Crawford made 17 saves, many of the world-class variety, in the first period, and the Blackhawks gave him support for the first time in the series during the second period.

Rinne's shutout streak of 141:05, the fourth longest at the start of a series in NHL history, ended 65 seconds into the second when Dennis Rasmussen beat him on a point-blank backhander off Marcus Kruger's pass from behind the net.

Patrick Kane made it 2-0 at 11:15 of the opening period, wiring a power-play wrister from the right faceoff circle past Rinne for his 50th career playoff goal and pumping his right fist Tiger Woods style.

But after taking four minor penalties in the second, Nashville energized its audience just 4:24 into the third period as its top line of Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson changed the script.

Forsberg stuffed the rebound of Arvidsson's shot into the net at 4:24 for his first goal of the series, then pounced on the rebound of Ryan Ellis' point blast and flicked it over Crawford's right pad at 14:08 as the arena shook with joy.

In three games, the line has combined for four goals and seven assists.

"We're just being hard on pucks, getting pucks to the net and converging on the net," Arvidsson said.

Although they appeared tired at times in overtime, the Predators kept pouring pucks at Crawford, finishing the night with 94 shot attempts. Crawford stopped 46 of the first 48 that got through to net, but he couldn't turn away Fiala's game-winner.

"He was fine," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Crawford. "They shot the puck at him from a lot of different angles. Our puck management wasn't as good as it had to be, and we didn't generate much."

Rinne finished with 34 saves, his biggest coming on Nick Schmaltz's breakaway early in the third period that kept the score at 2-0. Forsberg and Fiala made sure that play didn't go for naught, setting the stage for a potential close-out Game 4 on Thursday night.

"We have to come back with the same mindset," Ellis said. "They played a great game, but we just have to keep attacking the game."

NOTES: Chicago shuffled line combinations again for Game 3, with LW Nick Schmaltz going on the first line with C Jonathan Toews and RW Marian Hossa. RW Richard Panik and LW Ryan Hartman were dropped to the third and fourth lines, respectively. ... Nashville LW Colin Wilson (lower-body injury) sat out his third consecutive game. ... The Blackhawks scratched D Michal Kempny, LW Andrew Desjardins, LW Tomas Jurco, G Jeff Glass, D Michal Rozsival, LW John Hayden, D Gustav Forsling and Vinnie Hinostroza. ... Predators scratches were D Anthony Bitetto, RW PA Parenteau, RW Miikka Salomaki, D Brad Hunt, LW Cody McLeod and LW Vernon Fiddler.

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