The Nashville Predators picked up another key two points in the standings with their 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday. Jordin Tootoo and Sergei Kostitsyn each scored two goals and recorded three points.
The win vaulted the Preds into fourth place in the Western Conference.
Per the usual, the Predators got off to a fast start. This time it paid dividends, as they scored three goals in the first period.
Matt Halischuk got things started with a slick backhand of a bouncing puck, putting it through Chris Mason and giving the Preds a 1-0 lead at 5:24. In the last minute of the period, Tootoo tapped in a loose puck on the goal line, but it was essentially an own-goal by Atlanta’s Nik Antropov. Kostitsyn put the Preds ahead 3-0 with 2.2 seconds left when he finished off a behind-the-net feed from Patric Hornqvist.
Just 1:56 into the second period, Tootoo scored his second of the night – once again in ugly fashion. Halischuk’s pass towards the net ricocheted off a Thrashers stick, and then bounced in off Tootoo’s leg. The goal gave the Preds a 4-0 lead and chased Mason for the night; he made just nine saves on 13 shots.
“It was great to contribute offensively,” Tootoo said, “but the bottom line is we got two points.”
In the final six minutes of the second, Nashville failed to convert on three power play chances, including a five-on-three.
The Preds continued to pad the lead in the third when Kostitsyn added his second of the night. Cody Franson found him back-door on a nice cross-ice pass to take a 5-0 lead at 2:28.
“I saw (Patric Hornqvist) buying a little bit of time on the far side,” Franson said, “so I jumped into the hole, he made a saucer pass. I knew Sergei was coming off the wall and I heard him yelling. I fired it right at him and he put it in the net.”
After Blake Wheeler broke the shutout for the Thrahsers at 3:16, Mike Fisher responded with a power play tally at 6:18. Kostitsyn found a streaking Fisher in the slot, who deposited the puck into an open cage.
Wheeler and Antropov each added a goal late in regulation, which finished off a solid 6-3 victory for the Predators. The Thrashers outshot the Preds 19-5 in the final frame.
The fourth line was the story of this Predators win, as they combined for six points – including three from Tootoo.
“Those guys got us going,” Fisher said. “They were really good tonight. That helps out so much. The key to our success lately is different guys chipping in, and that was huge for us tonight.”
In the past two weeks, the team has had trouble holding three-goal leads; that was the centerpiece of the message during the first intermission.
“We’ve been trying to learn from the last couple games and we couldn’t let up,” Fisher said. “I thought we did a good job of getting up 6-1 there, but obviously we didn’t want to let in a couple there late. We just have to make sure we’re sharp in the third. We have to make sure we’re on the gas all the time.”
Pekka Rinne, who made 33 saves on the night, had a solid outing but was once again the victim to a couple bad bounces.
Nashville is now on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and will play their last home game of the season on Friday night against Columbus.