By Jim Diamond
As the first period neared its end Friday night, Predators defenseman Roman Josi picked up the puck in his own end near the blue line on the left boards. Josi carried the puck into the Chicago zone, seemingly dancing across the blue line before unleashing a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford high to the stick side, aided by a screen from Mike Santorelli. Just 3.4 seconds showed on the clock.
Goals scored in the last minute of periods are often referred to as momentum goals, and with the difficulties the Predators have experienced in the second period recently, they needed all the help they could get.
“He picked up the puck in our end with less than 10 seconds left on the clock and you’re thinking the period is probably just going to run out,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “But Roman has carried the puck so many times for us this year. Cutting through the neutral zone, but even then with less than six seconds on the entry to cut it across the ice and find a little bit of wiggle room to get a shot off. Santo made a nice screen in front of the net. That was a big moment in the game as well.”
And some adversity did appear in the second. At 9:17, Brandon Saad ran into Nashville captain Shea Weber at the end boards. The hit didn’t appear all that rough, but Weber collapsed to the ice. He got up quickly and skated off, putting no weight on his right leg. The team announced that he would not return to the game due to a lower-body injury.
Losing Weber meant the Predators had to go with five defensemen the rest of the way, a challenge since they did not have the traditional three pairings.
“Lot of talk, talk is always big in any type of situation, especially in the playoffs,” Cody Franson said. “It’s so loud out there and things happen so fast, that communication is just as important as anything else. When you go down to five guys like that, you try and keep your shifts short, don’t get overextended, and keep your energy levels high.”
Later in the second, Patrick Kane tied the game 2-2 on a goal that appeared to come with six Blackhawks on the ice. Running the risk of losing the first two games at home, the Predators rallied after the Kane goal, scoring the final four to win going away 6-2.
Josi had to adjust to multiple partners down the stretch. He got an opportunity to play some with Seth Jones, who was playing in just his second career NHL playoff game.
“He did great,” Josi said. “I thought he did great in the first game too. He’s such a confident guy with the puck and he makes those little plays. I thought he was awesome those two games.”
For his part, Jones retuned the admiration in Josi’s direction.
“It’s unbelievable some of the stuff he does,” Jones said. “It’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that. He makes the game so simple. We kind of had to rotate pairs a little bit this year, so it’s pretty easy playing with anyone on our D corps.”
The Predators did not have any further updates on Weber’s condition after the game.