Nashville Predators goaltender Dan Ellis knows what it is like to win an NHL playoff game, but now he wants to find out how it would feel to have an early lead to work with.
Monday night Ellis was in net for the Predators’ 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Sommet Center. He will be back between the pipes tonight at 8 when the Predators and Red Wings play Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals Stanley Cup Playoff series.
“It is always easier to play with a lead than battling from behind,” Ellis said. “We want to look to get out early and often in Game 4. Whenever you have the lead it takes the weight off of everyone’s backs. We can put the pressure on them and put them on their heels.
“That is what they have been able to do to us in the entire series. We want to make things easier on us. Sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way for this team.”
Ellis and the Predators will see what kind of a lift they get from their win as they try to even the series at 2-2 before returning to Detroit Friday for Game 5 of the best-of-seven series.
“It is a huge momentum-builder for us,” said Ellis. “To be able to battle back into a series that looked like it was somewhat slipping away from us was huge. You don’t want to get down 3-0 in a series. It’s very difficult to come back from that.”
Ellis faced only 26 shots in the win.
“We played a much more solid 60 minutes,” Ellis said. “We limited their opportunities much more than we did in the first two games.
“They were still able to break through with a few goals, but we didn’t give up as many odd-man rushes. We didn’t give up as many rebound chances as we did in the first couple of games. We want to use that momentum to push us into Game 4.”
Center Jason Arnott, the Predators’ captain, said he can still hear the sound of the more than 17,000 fans ringing in his ears. He thinks that kind of fan response will be the boost the Predators need if they are to again triumph.
“This should fire us up,” Arnott said. “Especially after coming back after being down by two and then being down by one in the third. We stuck with our game plan and stuck with each other and worked through it kind of like we did all season long.
“The crowd gave us that extra push to give us a chance to win. That should be a big confidence booster for us to come in Game 4 firing on all cylinders. We need contributions from everybody and we are getting that right now.”
Arnott was still feeling the effects of his goal celebration Monday night. Right wing Alexander Radulov knocked Arnott down and he was off the ice for the final 3:48 of the game. Both Arnott and coach Barry Trotz downplayed any injury that Arnott may have suffered.
“I was collecting my thoughts,” Arnott said with a laugh. “I told Radulov to slow down next time. He came at me pretty quick. It hurt a little bit, but not too bad. It was more or less excitement on his part I guess.”
Radulov is one of the more emotional players for the Predators. Trotz told him to be more careful about how he decides to celebrate.
“I told Radulov to hit the guys in red, not the guys in blue,” Trotz said. “You could tell he was excited and just ran Arnie over. Arnie got rattled. He bounced off of the boards. Arnie has more of a whiplash than anything, but he will be all right.”
Despite the euphoria of the win, the Predators have a long way to go in this series. Trotz mixed up his top lines with by pairing Arnott with wingers Martin Erat and Radulov and center David Legwand between J.P Dumont and Jan Hlavac.
“David is such a good two-way center man I can put him in any role,” Trotz said. “It doesn’t matter who Detroit puts out. I can put David out there and feel comfortable.
“We changed things up because you get a feel for which guys are going good and which guys you need together more. You have a Plan A and work yourself through to Plan Z if you need to do it. We have to be flexible and change when we need to do it.”