The Nashville Predators didn’t bring their best effort, but picked up two big points Saturday at home against the struggling Colorado Avalanche with a 4-2 victory.
Joel Ward had a goal and an assist as the Preds inched closer to the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the loss was Colorado’s 18th in its last 19th games.
The Predators picked right up from where they left off on Thursday against Minnesota. Four seconds after a power play expired, Shea Weber jammed home a Martin Erat rebound in front at 4:16 of the first period to give the Preds an early lead.
They once again capitalized following a man advantage, going up 2-0 just 13 seconds after their second power play chance. Matt Halischuk also scored off a rebound, this time from Kevin Klein. The goal, which started with a great defensive play from Blake Geoffrion, was Halischuk’s second in 19 games.
Ryan O’Reilly put Colorado on the board early in the second period to cut Nashville’s lead to 2-1. Pekka Rinne made a series of frantic saves before O’Reilly finally got it past him.
The Avs continued to control the play and had a golden opportunity to tie the game with a two-man advantage. Nashville killed it off, though, and proceeded to score to make it 3-1 at 13:31 of the period. Ward picked off a pass, faked a slap-shot, and wrapped the puck around the net from behind the goal line.
It was one of the top goals for the Preds this season.
“I just kind of looked to see if I could pick off the cross-ice pass,” Ward said about his goal. “I just saw the goalie and felt he was going to commit to me and come out. I figured I’d try it out and it worked. It was just kind of a read-and-react, and the play kind of developed and I knew I had a break inside the goalie.”
Colorado still kept up the pressure, and made it a one-goal game once again when Daniel Winnik tipped a shot past Rinne with 30 seconds remaining in the second. They held a 30-20 shot advantage after two periods.
Barry Trotz’s club had to hang on to their one-goal lead for most of the third period, including a close call on an O’Reilly breakaway attempt that hit the crossbar. Erat sealed the 4-2 win with an empty net tally as time expired.
One of the highlights of the night was Jordin Tootoo’s fight with Colorado’s Ryan Wilson at the end of the second period. Tootoo won decidedly in a bout that was intense from the moment they dropped the gloves.
“I don’t think you see any bruises on my face,” Tootoo said about his fight with Wilson. “It’s always nice to dish it out, but at the same time, you’ve got to expect it when it happens.”
The Preds have kicked off their 12-of-15 home stretch with two big wins after a disappointing road trip out west.
“It’s huge,” Rinne said. “I think we’ve responded pretty well, and we’re looking forward to playing here for the next few games. It’s going to be a good challenge, and right now I think things are going well for us. We just have to build momentum from now on.”
They will definitely need to carry over this momentum to next week’s slate that features four playoff teams – Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit and Buffalo.