Chicago stunned by Pred sweep
(Reuters) NASHVILLE, Tenn. – By not planning on a sweep, the Nashville Predators accomplished what few thought was possible.
Roman Josi scored twice, Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson each chipped in a goal and an assist, and Pekka Rinne capped an otherworldly series with 30 saves Thursday night as Nashville finished off its first four-game sweep in franchise history with a 4-1 decision over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Western Conference’s eighth seed outplayed No. 1 seed Chicago, using depth and speed to its advantage while getting a .976 save percentage from Rinne. The result sends the Predators to the conference semifinals against Minnesota or St. Louis next week.
“They’re a great hockey team, but everyone showed up to play,” Nashville captain Mike Fisher said. “We’re only part of the way there.”
The Predators became the first No. 8 seed to sweep a No. 1 seed since the NHL started utilizing a conference-based 1 vs. 8 format in the first round in 1994, according to STATS, LLC. No NBA team has managed the feat either, dating back to the start of 16-team playoffs in 1984.
Billed as a Stanley Cup contender when the season started six months ago, the Predators spent most of the regular season redefining inconsistency, mixing powerful performances with stretches where they did just enough to lose games.
A late-season surge pushed Nashville over the finish line, but a loss in the regular-season finale at Winnipeg set up the Predators with what looked like a poor matchup on paper. The Blackhawks beat the Predators four of five times en route to a 50-win regular season.
But with the exception of the last two periods of Game 1, which Rinne stole, and short stretches in Game 3 and Game 4, Nashville was clearly a better team. All four lines scored in the series, and the Predators’ defense came up big, no bigger than in the clincher.
“I think we’ll command a little bit more respect around the league,” Sissons said.
“We just have to stay hungry and stay humble.”
Sissons epitomized the way the Predators subdued Chicago. One of their depth forwards, Sissons scored in Game 2 and victimized the Blackhawks with a timely goal just when they were putting serious pressure on Rinne.
Sissons, taking a pass from Arvidsson in the high slot, whipped a wrister off the crossbar, then turned back down the ice.
But goalie Corey Crawford gifted Sissons his second goal of the series when he swept the puck into the net while trying to locate it at 8:52, giving Nashville a 2-0 lead.
“When we needed a timely goal, we got it,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
“When we needed a timely save, Pekka got it. I liked the way we played against Chicago during the regular season, but we didn’t get the wins. We just tried to put together a good game plan, tried to win a game and go on from there.”