The Nashville Predators 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena was a long time coming and involved several firsts for the team and individuals. For the team, it was the Predators’ first win in their new gold sweaters and the first in seven games at home, dating back to game six against Anaheim in last year’s opening round playoff series.
Individually, Mike Fisher got his first (and second) goal of the year in his second game back from offseason surgery. Patric Hornqvist got his first goal after suffering through the Preds’ first eight games with no markers after having 21 last season and 30 the year before. A third player that scored their first goal of the year was Nick Spaling.
Pekka Rinne was outstanding in goal, stopping 29 of 32 Tampa shots and making numerous highlight reel-type saves from odd angles.
The Predators have looked much better in the two games since the return of Fisher and Francis Bouillon. Fisher’s first goal at 14:05 in the opening period was a game changer. It came off of a pass from Sergei Kostitsyn that Fisher was able to easily place in the empty side of the Lightning net. It came after the Lightning had been putting intense pressure on the Predators’ defense at the other end of the ice and the Preds failed several times trying to clear the zone. Once the team made it to the Bolts end of the ice, Fisher’s goal came quickly and gave the Predators a 2-0 lead.
Fisher described the goal: “It was a great play by Sergei. It was nice to get one after being out so long and being able to help out.”
Barry Trotz pointed to the goal as being a key to the game: “We were able to take the momentum away and it was huge. In the game of hockey or any sport, you are going to have to weather some storms. That’s the part of sports that you have to deal with. If you weather it, and then you are able to capitalize right after they have had their push, it really can swing momentum and it did.”
At the defensive end of the ice, Fisher was credited with three blocked shots and two of them were basically goalie-saves on back door plays where Rinne was pulled in the opposite direction.
Fisher commented on the blocks: “The one from St. Louis was pretty tricky and I tried to get down on it and it’s a tough play because you are screening Pekka there, but I was fortunate to get in the way of a couple.”
Surprisingly, Fisher has turned into the team workhorse at center in his first two games on the ice. On Tuesday, he logged 19:30 in ice time and came back with 20:24 to lead all forwards against Tampa Bay.
“I wasn’t sure how much I could play coming back,” he said. “But fortunately, I’ve been able to skate and have good conditioning the last couple of months, and that has really helped coming back. I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’m in good shape and I’m ready for it.”
Finally, on the importance of the win, Fisher said, “It was huge. There were momentum swings and timely goals and everyone stepped up and played well when we really needed to to win at home.”
The Predators will conclude the current home stand on Saturday night at 7 p.m. when the Anaheim Ducks return to Nashville for the first time since they lost to the Predators in game six of their first round playoff series last April.