Forsberg scores twice in 3rd as Preds rally, beat Avs 5-2
Forsberg passed the puck to himself through his own legs and rookie defenseman Samuel Girard’s legs on his way to his second goal of the third period, helping Nashville beat Colorado 5-2 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference series.
”That was unbelievable,” Predators forward Austin Watson said. ”I don’t know if you guys panned over to the bench, but all of our jaws dropped. He thinks of doing things out there that wouldn’t even happen in my dreams.”
Pekka Rinne made 25 saves as Nashville put together a strong finish to its playoff opener after winning Presidents’ Trophy for the first time this season. The Predators are hoping to take the next step this year after losing to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final.
Colorado was looking for a big win on a stage the franchise hasn’t seen since 2014, and the young Avalanche outplayed the defending Western Conference champs early.
Austin Watson had a goal and an assist for Nashville, which has won 11 straight over Colorado. Craig Smith and Colton Sissons also scored, and Ryan Johansen and captain Roman Josi each had two assists.
Nikita Zadorov and Blake Comeau scored for Colorado. Jonathan Bernier made 26 stops.
Forsberg, who had a team-high 64 points in the regular season, gave Nashville its first lead of the game at 3-2 when he redirected a shot by Josi past Bernier 6:08 into the third. Then Forsberg delivered again with a breathtaking move in the middle of Colorado’s zone with 7:50 left.
”It was just one of those that come us up I guess when you skate, and it worked,” Forsberg said.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette was impressed.
”What I really liked about it, it was a power move,” Laviolette said. ”It was not just a standing-still move, like he really picked up speed and did his best to drive. And I always feel like he’s best when he’s a power forward first and then he brings a skill element into it, and that’s exactly what he did on that goal.”
Game 2 is Saturday afternoon in Nashville.
The series features a team that won 53 games during the regular season and Colorado, which had to win its regular-season finale to squeak into the postseason ahead of St. Louis. The Avalanche came in with only 14 players with playoff experience, and their most seasoned player, Colin Wilson, was on Nashville’s roster a year ago.
”I’m happy with the way we played,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. ”I felt like we did enough to almost earn a better result but now we’re going to have to go and dig in even harder to make sure we do earn a better result. We’re capable.”
Fans filled the arena more than 30 minutes before the puck dropped, waiting for a pregame video that included a giant curtain that dropped down over the ice for a giant videoboard. Rascal Flatts handled the anthem as the Predators continued their tradition of big stars stepping in for the postseason, and two catfish hit the ice almost as soon as the last note ended.
Colorado scored on its first official shot. Rinne didn’t appear to see Zadorov’s wrister, with the puck going over his glove at 6:36.
The Predators were a bit sloppy early.
The team that led the NHL in penalties took two late in the first, giving Colorado 19 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage. Rinne seemed to settle the Predators down with a big save with 20 seconds left in the period, stopping Tyson Jost’s shot from the slot before sticking his right skate to the post with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog trying to pounce on the puck.
In the second, Rinne got help from Matt Irwin clearing J.T. Compher’s shot, and the Predators tied it on a wrist shot from Watson that squeezed over Bernier’s left shoulder at 3:14. The goal was being announced when Comeau got a stick on Carl Soderberg’s shot from the point to give Colorado a 2-1 lead at 4:51.
”It shows us we’re right with them,” Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie said.
Rinne came up with his best save with 2:24 left in the second with Mikko Rantanen on a breakaway. The goalie spread out and stuck his right leg out, stopping the puck with his pad.
Sissons capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:57 left.
NOTES: Forsberg had his third career multigoal game in the postseason. He is averaging more than a point-per-game for his career against Colorado. … Nashville had been 12-14-5 after giving up the first goal and 8-10-2 when trailing after the first period in the regular season. But the Preds were 11-1-2 when tied after two periods. … Watson and Smith each had their fifth career goals of the playoffs.
Game 2 is Saturday in Nashville.
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