CHICAGO - Rarely has the inside of the visiting locker room at United Center been a place of Predators-related celebration.
It’s where the baffled 2010 Predators tried to comprehend how they lost a critical Game 5 that they led with less than 30 seconds left, allowing a late-tying shorthanded goal. Dejected and exhausted faces filled the stalls two years ago after a triple-overtime Game 4 loss that ended at 1:16 a.m.
To win this first-round playoff series against the heavily favored Blackhawks, the Predators had to win at least one game in Chicago, where they had lost nine of their previous 10 visits before Thursday's opener.
A nail-biting 1-0 win was the first road shutout in team playoff history in 36 tries and the first when scoring one goal.
This is the first time the Predators have ever shut out an opponent on the road in their postseason history (36th road postseason game). pic.twitter.com/KwUGdZKAsD— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 14, 2017
Predators players exhaled, then smiled.
"Now the series is on," said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, who recorded the 29-save shutout.
How appropriate that forward Viktor Arvidsson, the Predators' pint-sized fireball, scored the team's first goal this postseason, scurrying to the crease in perfect position to redirect forward Filip Forsberg's shot past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. United Center groaned.
It was the only goal of a first period that the unintimidated Predators decidedly controlled, pushing the Blackhawks to the outside and holding them to one shot on goal for a nearly 14-minute span.
The story then shifted to a dicier but familiar setting. The Predators struggled during the regular season to finish off opponents, commonly known in sports as "killer instinct."
That's why the Predators are the second wild-card team in the Western Conference and in Chicago in the first place, the result of a last-minute regulation loss to the Winnipeg Jets in last weekend's regular-season finale.
Wins are for closers. The only reason Nashville escaped the second period with its one-goal lead miraculously intact was because of Rinne's acrobatics in net.
"I think we've got to do a better job as the series goes on," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "You can't just defend that team. They're going to make you pay somehow."
"If we're going to talk about fixing something, it's that mindset going into a period when we have a lead or we did some good things to come back and try to go for the throat," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
RELATED:Game 1 quotes of note
The Blackhawks basically annexed the Predators' defensive zone through most of the last two periods. Nashville clung to the razor-thin advantage it had against an experienced Chicago team that has a knack for succeeding at crucial moments.
The end-of-game buzzer never sounded so sweet.
"We should feel comfortable and confident right now," Rinne said. "I'm really excited for Game 2. I think everybody else is as well."
Reach Adam Vingan at email@example.com and on Twitter @AdamVingan.
PREDATORS VS. BLACKHAWKS
Predators lead series 1-0
Game 1: Nashville 1, Chicago 0
Saturday: at Chicago, 7 p.m., NBC
Monday: at Nashville, 8:30 p.m.
Thursday: at Nashville, TBA
x-Saturday, April 22: at Chicago, TBA
x-Monday, April 24: at Nashville, TBA
x-Wednesday, April 26: at Chicago, TBA
Central time is used for the above game times.
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