NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On the verge of one of the biggest first round upsets in Stanley Cup Playoffs history, the Predators left no doubt by beating the Blackhawks 4-1 Thursday in game four to complete the series sweep.
Chicago came in as the Stanley Cup favorites, having won three titles in the past seven years. But Nashville was simply the better team in this series from start to end.
Roman Josi scored twice and Pekka Rinne was superb again in net as the Predators finished off one of hockey's toughest teams to finish.
The Predators knew they were going to get the Blackhawks best shot, but they were ready for it from the start, outchancing Chicago by a wide margin in the first period. The two sides battled back and forth to the midway point of the game in a scoreless affair.
That's when Ryan Johansen won yet another face off battle, sending the puck directly back to Ryan Ellis who scooted it to Josi who blasted a shot right through a screened off Corey Crawford, blowing the lid off Bridgestone Arena.
It was the third time in the four games in this series the Preds have drawn first blood, an area they struggled throughout the regular season. But this series has been the absolute best of Nashville.
The top line has dominated the Blackhawks' stars while the Preds' depth has proved too much with the emergence of young players like Kevin Fiala who had the OT game-winner in game three and Colton Sissons who added another goal and an assist in game four.
Sissons provided the blow that really broke Chicago's back, taking a feed from Viktor Arvidsson on a three on one in the slot and blasting it off the crossbar only for it to hit Crawford's back and trickle in for a 2-0 lead with 12:08 left.
Moments later Sissons found Josi on another three on one opportunity for the defenseman's second goal of the night.
Jonathan Toews got the Blackhawks on the board with his only point of the series, but Arvidsson added an empty-netter to make it 4-1.
And Rinne continued his splendid play with 30 more saves. For the series, the 34-year-old goaltender stopped 123 of the 126 shots he's faced.
Keep this up and it could be a long spring in Smashville.
The Blackhawks were the Stanley Cup favorites, but it's the Predators moving on.
NHL beware, the Preds look every bit the part of a Cup contender.