It was a frustrating night for the Nashville Predators, who did a lot of things right in Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles.
Barry Trotz’s crew limited the Kings’ chances with just 18 shots, while getting 32 on net for themselves. However, they ran into a hot team that made the Preds pay on mistakes, which was enough for them to come away with a 4-2 victory.
The Kings extended their win streak to four, sweeping a critical road trip.
Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves in the win, continuing his dominance over Nashville. In five starts in his young career against this team, Bernier is now 4-1, proving to be very tough to beat for the Preds.
“He’s played well against us, there’s no doubt about that,” said defenseman Cody Franson. “He’s a good young prospect for them. He has given them a chance to win every time we’ve played those guys. Hats off to him, but we have to be better.”
The Predators once again started a game with a lot of jump; so much so, that they held a 10-1 shot advantage in the first ten minutes. However, it was Los Angeles who struck first. Anze Kopitar scored off a behind-the-net feed from Dustin Penner at 11:31 of the period.
“We have to get past the first ten minutes if we don’t get the bounce,” Franson stated. “You’re going to win a game in the first ten minutes. We have to have more of a 60-minute effort. We were close to that tonight, but not good enough.”
Jonathon Blum tied things up for Nashville nearly six minutes later with a slap-shot from the point that eluded Bernier’s glove shoulder for his second tally of his career.
The end of the period featured two monstrous checks from the Preds – Shea Weber on Alexei Ponikarovsky, immediately followed by Jordin Tootoo on Willie Mitchell. The hits got the crowd even more fired up as the teams headed to the dressing room.
However, Nashville failed to carryover that momentum into the second period. Just 2:16 into the middle stanza, defenseman Alec Martinez one-timed a Dustin Brown pass past Pekka Rinne to give LA a 2-1 lead.
The Kings built on their lead midway through the second when Wayne Simmonds scored his 13th of the season. Nashville could not clear their defensive zone and Kopitar, who was the top performer with two points on the night, was there to set up Simmonds and take a 3-1 lead.
Nashville held a 24-13 shot advantage through 40 minutes, yet was on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Through the midway point of the third, there was only one shot between the two teams.
J.P. Dumont, who was supposed to be scratched in this game, made things interesting when he deflected home a shot from Franson, bringing the Preds within one at 3-2 with 7:17 remaining. It was Dumont’s first goal since his hat trick game in Phoenix on Jan. 18.
Nashville couldn’t pull even in the final minutes, though, and Brown sealed the 4-2 win with an empty netter at 18:58.
With this win the Kings took three of four in the season series in decisive fashion. Since the lockout, Nashville has had their number… but not recently. The Kings have won three straight in Bridgestone Arena, proving to be a difficult matchup with their size up front.
A subplot to this game was the absence of Joel Ward, who has played well of late. Ward missed the game with a lower-body injury. His line with David Legwand and Martin Erat definitely missed having him.
“Well, he can stabilize that line,” Trotz said of Ward. “I thought Patric (Hornqvist) did a good job on that line. He was pretty effective; got deep on the forecheck. But you know, you can sort of put everybody in their right place if you want, and that line had lots of chemistry and was going really well. It’s unfortunate (Ward) wasn’t able to go tonight in such a big game.”
Trotz mentioned Ward is day-to-day, and that the injury doesn’t appear to be “too serious.”
Nashville continues its week with home games against Boston and Detroit on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, before making a quick trip to Buffalo on Sunday.