The Colorado Avalanche came out heated, but it wasn’t enough as the Nashville Predators took Game 1 on Thursday night.
Not many people outside of Colorado probably expected the Avalanche to put in work this series. Perhaps Nashville wasn’t expecting them too either. But considering that Colorado had to grind for weeks to simply make it here, no one should be taking them lightly. Fortunately for the Predators, it didn’t cost them this first game. If they take the Avalanche lightly again, though, this could become an entirely different series.
Colorado came out blazing in the first period. They were fast, confident, and it led to the first goal of the game when defenseman Nikita Zadorov popped one past Pekka Rinne less than seven minutes into the game. If Nashville were less experienced, they may have been phased. Not only by the goal but by the aggression with which the Avalanche were playing. Really, this team offered no fear all night. Especially teenage defenseman Sam Girard. He was all over the ice, and early on it was causing headaches for the Predators.
Nashville has been here before, though. They went into the first intermission trailing 1-0 but came out for the second with one goal in mind: Play like you’ve been all season.
Less than four minutes into the next frame, Preds winger Austin Watson, he of 19 points on the year, put an absolute laser over the left shoulder of Jonathan Bernier. There was a single spot he could stick it to get it in, and it was right on the money to tie the game at one.
Colorado would answer though under two minutes later. A severe and deft tip by Blake Comeau gave the Avalanche the lead back, but that also didn’t last very long. Star Av Nathan MacKinnon took a penalty and 10 seconds later Craig Smith whipped one home from just atop the left circle. It was also a beautiful pass from Ryan Johansen through two Colorado penalty killers.
After that, the Predators would never trail again. Oh yeah, and Filip Forsberg came to play.
Forsberg wasn’t too noticeable in this one. Until he was, and then he quickly became the player of the game.
When the third period began, it could be seen easily that the tide was turning in Nashville’s favor. They had started controlling the speed of the Avalanche, they were getting more looks, and it was only a matter of time. About six minutes in, Roman Josi fired a shot/pass that was going 8 miles wide and ended up being deflected by Forsberg right into the goal. It was a killer for Colorado, who had fought all night to come away with this game. The gut punch, though, was this goal:
Filip Forsberg, welcome to the playoffs. Take a bow because with moves that saucy, you’ll be here a while. This goal made it 4-2 Predators and it was done. An empty netter by Colton Sissons would finish up the game at 5-2.
1. Filip Forsberg: As mentioned, and shown, Forsberg erupted. His two goals not only gave Nashville the lead but dazzled the crowd in the process. Nathan MacKinnon is certainly a player to be wary of if your Colorado, but Forsberg better be on the radar if the Avs want to even things on Saturday. He wasn’t even close to being on their radar tonight, and it cost them big.
2. Pekka Rinne: Rinne gets the nod here because he did Rinne things all night. The Vezina candidate came up with huge saves early, including a stuff with the pad on a breakaway that you can check out below. For a while, it seemed he would be in a goalie duel to the finish with Bernier, but it didn’t happen. Rinne was calm in stopping 25 shots, he was sound in his positioning, and he dominated from the outset.
3. Sam Girard: This one could go to anyone else for the Preds, but we’ll hand it to Girard for his solid performance, except on that goal where he was completely fooled by Forsberg. The kid is 19 and playing defense in an NHL playoff series. He was fast and confident and continued to show up throughout the game. One instance was embarrassing, but he’ll learn.
Game 2 is Saturday, April 14, 3:00 p.m. EST at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville