DENVER (AP) – Now that was more of the start Nashville was looking for. The finish? Not as much.
Filip Forsberg scored another creative goal, Pekka Rinne rebounded from a rocky performance with 31 saves, and the Predators withstood a furious rally by the Colorado Avalanche for a 3-2 win in Game 4 on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
“I guess probably some teams, every once in a while, can say everything is perfect. Everything is awesome,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “But most times you’re trying to work on something, trying to get better at something.”
For the first time all series, the Avs were held scoreless in the opening period and the Predators built a 3-0 cushion heading into the final period.
Colton Sissons and Craig Smith also scored for the Predators, who can close out the series Friday when it shifts back to Nashville for Game 5.
“We don’t want it to end at all,” Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “We’re still in it. It’s not over yet.”
Rinne was solid early after being pulled from the last game. Cruising along and up 3-0, the Vezina Trophy finalist allowed Gabriel Landeskog’s 5-on-3 power-play goal in the third and another on Alexander Kerfoot’s tap-in off a rebound with 8:59 remaining.
Colin Wilson nearly tied with about 2 minutes left when his shot appeared to hit the post. The Avalanche pulled backup goalie Andrew Hammond late, but couldn’t get the tying goal. Tyson Jost sent a shot over the net at the buzzer.
“It was a good push by them,” Forsberg said.
Forsberg worked his puck-handling magic in the first period by dancing around defenseman Duncan Siemens and juking Jonathan Bernier for his third goal of the series. The ever-creative Forsberg had an artistic goal in Game 1 as well, when he sent the puck through the defenseman’s legs before scoring.
“Just tried to use my speed wide and use that speed all the way around the net,” Forsberg said.
Bernier allowed three goals on 26 shots before being replaced by Hammond to start the third period due to a lower body injury. Hammond had eight saves.
Forsberg and his crew came out with a little more spring in their skates for Game 4. This may have played a role: The team went through an up-tempo practice the day before. It was a way to avoid a sluggish start like Monday when Colorado scored three times in the first period of Game 3.
The strategy worked. Nashville controlled the tempo except for a frenzied stretch in the third.
“We knew we weren’t going to go 16-0,” Forsberg said. “We were going to lose a game throughout these playoffs and obviously we were just looking to bounce back.”
Now, the Avs are looking to regroup.
“I’m obviously upset at the result, but I loved our third, there’s no question,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “But we need to find that urgency earlier.”
There was a scary moment in the second period when MacKinnon’s stick caught teammate Mikko Rantanen near the eye. Rantanen left with a towel pressed against his face, only to return a few minutes later.
But not before the Predators scored another goal as Smith zoomed out of the penalty box and beat Bernier with a wrist shot to make it 3-0.
From there, things turned a little testy. Landeskog hit a tumbling Ryan Johansen, who headed to the dressing room. He returned in the third period.
P.K. Subban got the crowd fired up early by shooting a puck into Colorado’s net in the pregame warmups. He’s stepped into the villain’s role after delivering a blow to the side of MacKinnon’s helmet during Game 3. Subban was booed each time he touched the puck.
The Predators came out firing on all cylinders, even going on an early 5-on-3 power play for 1:20. They but couldn’t get anything past Bernier, but they did knock Bernier’s mask momentarily out of commission when Viktor Arvidsson’s slap shot caught him square him in the cage. Bernier skated over to the bench to grab his backup one. He later returned to his original one.
NOTES: Predators F Calle Jarnkrok returned after missing the last 16 games with an upper-body injury. … Rinne felt honored to be a finalist for the award that goes to the league’s top goaltender. “Even though it’s an individual award, I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” he said. … Avs D Samuel Girard missed a third straight game with an upper-body injury. … Avs F Carl Soderberg took a bit hit from RW Ryan Hartman in the third that drew a charging penalty.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer