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Predators In Familiar Spot Entering Game 3

Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 17, 2017

A year ago the Predators won the first two games of their opening round series in Anaheim before returning home and promptly losing games three and four to the Ducks.

It's history they do not want to repeat as they return home tonight with a 2-0 lead for game three of their first round series with the Blackhawks.

"Two wins won't get you anything," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "Our crowd is going to be excited and loud and we need to let them give us the advantage."

It should be a sizable advantage with 17,113 fans decked out in gold and smelling blood against the rival Blackhawks.

But it was an advantage that was muted a year ago when the Ducks got an early game three goal to take the crowd out of the game, and rode that momentum to wins in game three and four to tie the series before it shifted back to California. While the Predators ended up winning the series in seven games, it's a path they would like to avoid.

"I think any playoff experience helps," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "But the main thing is we need to play well in this game."

The Preds expect the Blackhawks to play desperate hockey after losing the first two games of a series on home ice for the first time since it's core group of stars have been together. It's a group that's won three Stanley Cups and rallied from series deficits on multiple occasions.

"We have guys who can rely on that experience," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Now we can just relax and play our game and hopefully put the pressure on them in their own building."

That's why the first goal of game three will be key. Bridgestone Arena is going to be ready to explode when the puck drops shortly after 8:30 p.m. If the Preds score first, the snowball could start running downhill on the Hawks. But if Chicago scores first and silences the crowd, all bets are off.

"If we can win tonight it's a 2-1 series and we're right back in this thing," Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said.

And there's a huge difference between a 3-0 and a 2-1 series lead. Only four teams in the history of the NHL have rallied from a 3-0 series deficit, while teams have come back from 2-1 down more than 30 percent of the time.

The Predators are in control of the series right now. A win in game three could all but wrap up the series, while a loss would put them back in a dogfight with one of hockey's most talented teams.

"We learned (last year) that you can't have any let up," Predators forward James Neal said. "We know they're going to be desperate and we're going to need to match that desperation to win."

The best lessons in life come from experience. The Predators hope it was a lesson well learned.