JOE BIDDLE: Preds take Game 1

(Photo: WKRN)

Fasten your seat belts Predators fans. It’s going to be a roller-coaster ride.

The Predators were trying to take an important 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. They had to do it on the Blues home rink, serving notice that they aren’t giving an inch.

The Blues unleashed a two-goal attack in the third period to tie the score at 3-3. It was up to the Predators to counter. They did.

A name from the past, center Vern Fiddler bailed the Preds out by scoring a reach-in goal with 5:05 in the game to take a 4-3 lead. It would stand up despite a barrage of shots knocked down by Pekka Rinne.

It gave the Predators their fifth straight playoff win.

The Predators had drawn first blood on the Blues on a goal by Colin Wilson. It would be the only score of the game after the first period.

It was clear from the start the Blues are going to be a much tougher out than first round opponents Chicago Blackhawks who were swept in four games.

The Predators lost Kevin Fiala early in the second period after a legal, but violent forecheck, courtesy of the Blues Robert Bortuzzo, who pinned Fiala behind the Blues goal.

Fiala is 5-10, 193 pounds. Bortuzzo stands 6-4, 221 pounds. Fiala was carried off on a stretcher and the game was delayed 17 minutes to allow a second ambulance to arrive on the scene and take Fiala to a hospital. There was no word at that point as to the extent of Fiala’s injury.

Preds’ defenseman P.K. Subban was huge for the Predators. He scored a goal minutes after play resumed after the Fiala injury. In the first two periods, Subban scored a goal and two assists. The defenseman continues to get in on several offensive plays.

The Blues got on the scoreboard with their first goal, but the Predators countered in the second period with two power play goals, the second giving them a 3-1 lead after Fiala’s injury.

The Preds kept that lead through two periods and went into the final 20 minutes with a two-goal lead. Goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 17 of the 18 Blues shots. He continues his quality play that he had enjoyed in the first series.

The Blues got to Rinne early in the third period, a shot going through Rinne’s legs to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 13 minutes remaining. A goal by the Blues Vladimir Sobotka tied the game at 3-all after he slapped a laser shot over Rinne’s left shoulder.

Game 1 was up for grabs.

The Predators had to step on the gas in order to take an important win in Game 1 on the road. Coming into this game the Blues were 2-5 in their final seven home games.

The Blues were more physical, more aggressive than the Blackhawks. These Blues are here to match the Predators, who won three of their five regular season games. It’s apparent these teams don’t have any love for each other, but the Predators battled the Blues in that category.

Based on the series opening game, it would not startle anyone if this series goes seven games.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.