The game was tied at 1-1 at the start of the third period, but the Nashville Predators came out firing as they picked up a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5.
The Predators' victory cuts the Blackhawks' series lead to 3-2, and forced a Game 6 in Chicago on Saturday night.
The Predators looked to come out of the gate firing on offense, but the Blackhawks did a really nice job of bottling up rushes and preventing the puck from getting up the ice. The Hawks’ top line also did their part as they moved the puck and created scoring opportunities, but Pekka Rinne was strong in the early going as he helped kill off a Ryan Ellis penalty and kept the game scoreless.
In spite of that early success, the Blackhawks’ offense kept churning, and they ultimately were able to take the lead. Bryan Bickell made a gorgeous drop pass in the neutral zone to get the play started, and Brad Richards exploded into the offensive zone and flipped a quick shot past Rinne to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
As they have several other times in this series, the Blackhawks were unable to hold onto their lead and the Predators quickly tied the game. Off a face-off in the offensive zone, the puck found its way onto Filip Forsberg’s stick, and he avenged his Calder Trophy snub by scoring and tying things up at 1-1.
The Blackhawks got a power play late in the period, and as it carried over into the second period, they got a few good scoring chances and couldn’t quite put a shot home. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane played a big role on the power play, but neither was able to convert as Rinne once again maintained a strong presence in the net.
The remainder of the period saw the Predators slowly start to gain momentum, but Scott Darling made a couple of big saves to keep the game scoreless. The Hawks also killed off a penalty to Brent Seabrook during that stretch, with the forwards doing a nice job of disrupting play in front of the cage.
As the third period got underway, the Predators managed to take advantage of some bad Blackhawks puck control, and they scored to take the lead. Michal Rozsvial failed to clear the puck at the point, and James Neal drove it back into the zone. Viktor Stalberg had the puck knocked off his stick in front of the net, and Neal whipped in a wraparound shot off of Duncan Keith’s skate to make it 2-1 Nashville.
Just a few minutes later, Rozsival committed a bad interference penalty in the defensive zone, and the Predators scored on the ensuing power play. Mike Ribiero got the puck in the high slot, and he fed a pass down low to Colin Wilson, who wheeled around and scored his fourth goal of the series to make it a 3-1 game.
Just 12 seconds later, the Predators scored again. Mike Fisher tossed the puck across the ice on a rush to Forsberg, who potted his second goal of the evening to give the Predators a 4-1 lead.
The Blackhawks had a tough time getting their offense going, but with five minutes left in the game they were finally able to get moving in the right direction. Kane got the puck in the offensive zone and made a gorgeous spin move, and his pass to Kris Versteeg was absolutely perfect as the winger fired it into the empty net to make it a 4-2 game.
That goal was all the Blackhawks could muster however, and after a Versteeg turnover, Forsberg picked up the hat trick and gave his team the 5-2 victory.
The Blackhawks will have another chance to clinch on Saturday night when they take on the Predators at 7 p.m. in Game 6 of the series.