From the outside, Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville is a handsome, if oversized, building surrounded by office towers, a parking lot and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In other words, nothing special.
But on the inside it’s a magical place, one bathed in yellow and often louder than a jumbo jet at full throttle. On Tuesday that helped the Predators pull a little more sleight of hand, scoring a pair of third-period goals to down the Ducks 2-1 and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
Game 4 is Thursday.
“We love playing here,” Nashville forward James Neal said. “From the second we skate on the ice, it’s an amazing building to play in. Everyone says their fans are great. But this is a whole different level of support.
“The city, it’s on fire.”
So are the Predators, whose victory Tuesday left them 6-0 at home this postseason. It was also their 10th straight home playoff win over the past two seasons, the longest such streak in the NHL in 20 years.
Nashville wasn’t even in the league 20 years ago.
“You always try to establish your home building, [make it a] tough place to play. And I think we’ve been doing that,” said goalie Pekka Rinne, who turned back 19 shots. “Even in the regular season, we like to play at home.”
The goals Tuesday were scored by Filip Forsberg, who has one in each of the three games in the series, and Roman Josi, whose game-winner came with 2:43 left in regulation. Both came off fortunate rebounds and they stood up after Nashville had twice as many shots on goal and had two potential tiebreaking goals disallowed in an eight-second span of the third period, both because of goaltender interference.
The Ducks, who had taken a 1-0 lead on Corey Perry’s power-play goal in the second period, also had an apparent earlier second-period score erased after the official ruled the net had been dislodged before the puck crossed the goal line.
Instead the Predators say the only supernatural things in arena are their fans, who dress in yellow and, on Tuesday, remained on their feet for the entire third period, making the stands look like a field of poppies swaying in the breeze.
“It’s tough to put in words,” Josi, who has played for four teams on two continents, said of the atmosphere. “You’ve got to be in here to feel the energy.
“They just keep cheering, keep cheering. I haven’t been in a building with that much energy in my life.”
If the fans weren’t already on their feet, Josi undoubtedly would have brought them there when he beat Ducks goalie John Gibson — who made 38 saves and surely deserved a better fate — with a wrister from the right faceoff circle after Mattias Ekholm’s wicked slap shot from the blue line bounced off Predator forward Viktor Arvidsson. The puck rolled toward a waiting Josi, who buried his shot to end Nashville’s 0-for-11 drought on the power play.
Forsberg had put the Predators on the board less than four minutes into the final period, wristing home the rebound of a Ryan Ellis shot to tie it at 1-1.
Neal nods his head. But he won’t discount the possibility either. Why challenge the hockey gods when they appear to be setting your team up for a long postseason run?
“Don’t jinx it,” Neal pleaded. “That’s been our goal all year. Another win and one step closer. Everyone’s going to say it, but in reality that’s how it is.
“You just battle every game and stay in the moment and do everything you can to get that next win.”
1. Nashville put the Ducks under duress long before Chris Wag-ner’s high-sticking penalty that led to the game-winning goal. The Predators dictated play, particularly late in the third period, in one of their more complete games of the playoffs.
2. Filip Forsberg was a force. The wing boxed out Sami Vatanen and scored Nashville’s first goal, took six shots and gave the Ducks issues, along with linemates Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson.
3. Nashville won even though Ducks goalie John Gibson bounced back from a poor Game 2. Gibson was roughed up all night, including getting run into on two disallowed goals, and made 38 saves.
THE BIG STAT
5: The number of playoff games the Ducks had won, against zero losses, when leading after two periods, before Game 3.
— Curtis Zupke