Predators looking forward to their unique home-ice advantage in Game 3


Facing a 2-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Final the Nashville Predators aren’t yet facing a “must-win” situation in its most literal sense, but there is definitely an urgency for them to get on the board in this series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But the Predators are feeling pretty confident heading into Game 3 on Saturday night due to the home ice advantage they get to experience at Bridgestone Arena that has one of the most unique and raucous environments in the NHL.

“You have to keep it simple,” coach Peter Laviolette said on Saturday morning when asked about  the message he delivered to his team.

“Just make sure that we focus on today, not worry about a big picture. We got to win a game. We’re back in our building with our fans. I said yesterday, I still stand by that, there’s things we can do better on the ice. We’ve done some good things, but we’re behind in the series, so that can’t be good enough. There’s some things we can do better. We’ll look to do that today. We have gone over those things yesterday. Keeping it simple today, focusing on what’s been working for us. Like I said, I think getting back in here, the energy is going to be really good in the building tonight. We’ve been good here. A lot of confidence.”

They absolutely have been good at home, and after posting a 24-9-8 record during the regular season the Predators have followed it up with a 7-1 mark this postseason with the only loss coming in overtime against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals.

Predators forward P.A. Parenteau, who spent time playing in hockey hotbeds Chicago, Montreal and Toronto, called the crowd without question “No. 1 in the NHL.”

It’s not your traditional NHL crowd, and that is a very good thing.

A lot of the people that end up getting inside are probably going to have to spend a small fortune to get inside, too.

Tickets on the secondary market have been going for well above $1,200 leading up to the game, while the ticket scalpers on the street are setting even higher prices and not responding kindly when potential buyers scoff at them, as Sean Gentille of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discovered on Saturday.

So why is Saturday’s game so big for Nashville? Well, aside from the fact it is the first ever Stanley Cup Final game in the city, it is also a potential turning point in the series. Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-seven format in 1939 teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 45 out of 50 times (90 percent). Teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead by winning the first two games at home (as the Penguins did with their wins in Games 1 and 2) have won the series 34 out of 37 times (91 percent). Two of the three teams that overcome that deficit, however, happened in the past eight years with the 2009 Penguins coming back against the Detroit Red Wings and the 2010-11 Boston Bruins erasing a 2-0 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks.

Game 3 begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can also watch it online via our Live Stream.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:


Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

Associated Press

The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.