Last night’s game told you all you need to know about the Nashville Predators.
Despite playing in their first back-to-back of the year (against a well-rested Blues club); despite being playing with a rookie goaltender for the second straight night; despite missing two top-six forwards to injury… the Predators still took down division rival St. Louis, 4-3, pushing their record to 3-0 in the first week.
Early on in the first period (56 seconds to be exact), Marcel Goc gave the Preds an early lead with his wrist shot from the high slot. The goal, assisted by Colin Wilson and J.P. Dumont, was Goc’s second of the season.
Both teams traded some chances for the next few minutes, but the Preds extended their lead once Brad Boyes and Eric Brewer took penalties ten seconds apart. That enabled the Preds’ power play to strike on the two-man advantage, as Steve Sullivan one-timed a nice feed from Ryan Suter to put them up 2-0.
St. Louis responded two minutes later when Jay McClement’s shot from out front deflected in off of Matt D’Agostini, who was standing next to the net.
It didn’t take long for Nashville to regain that two-goal edge, though, when Cal O’Reilly found Sullivan at the top of the circle 15 seconds later, catapulting them to a 3-1 lead. Sullivan had a great chance to complete the hat trick in the first period when he had a breakaway in the waning seconds, but his backhand attempt was stopped by Jaroslav Halak’s right pad.
The Preds were dominated by St. Louis early in the second (similar to Wednesday’s game in Chicago), and even surrendered a power play goal to T.J. Oshie 8:15 into the period. Oshie capitalized on a turnover, backhanding his shot past Anders Lindback seconds later.
Through the first 11 minutes of the second period, the Blues had outshot the Predators, 9-1. But the Preds were still able to extend their lead when Patric Hornqvist jammed home a rebound in the crease on the power play. O’Reilly picked up his third assist of the night on the play, as his slap-shot directly setup the goal.
One of the bigger moments of the game occurred when Kevin Klein stopped a rolling puck behind Lindback. That ‘save’ kept the game at 4-2 just seconds before intermission.
At 3:38 of the third period, Jordin Tootoo and Ryan Reaves got into an altercation at center ice. Both were given roughing penalties; Tootoo got the extra two minutes. He appeared to escalate the situation when he jumped Reaves from behind. On the ensuing power play, St. Louis drew within a goal when Patrik Berglund’s wrister from in close eluded Lindback’s blocker side. That’s as close as they’d get.
For the rest of the game, the Preds held on and contained a fast Blues team that outshot Nashville 35-22 (12-2 in the third). Davis Payne’s bunch was given a late chance on the power play in the final minute, but never garnered a shot as the Preds went on to claim a key early season victory.
Barry Trotz on playing back-to-back:
“Early in the season when you play your first back-to-back – and it was a big win in Chicago – you’re body’s not quite use to it, the adrenaline crash that you have after games and how that affects you in back-to-back games. I thought we didn’t have great legs in the last 30 minutes, but enough to get by. It was a good test for us and our guys responded pretty well.”
Trotz on Sullivan/O’Reilly/Hornqvist line:
“That whole line has been pretty good. I think Sully’s really helped Cal; Cal sees the ice so well. They are both very intelligent players, and Horny is sort of the throwback, heading to the net and find pucks. It really complements the three… they are playing really well right now.”
Shea Weber on Lindback’s play:
“He’s just getting more and more confident. Obviously he’s proved himself in the preseason and that’s why he’s still here. He’s just showing us that we can be comfortable and confident in him, being in there for Pekka and really holding this thing down.”
Sullivan on the team:
“It’s a great dressing room, the atmosphere. Even from training camp, the dressing room is fun, it’s exciting, it’s liked in here. Everyone knows they have to make a contribution. We don’t count on one guy to make a difference every single night. We know that we’re going to need 20 guys every single night to win. We’ve been getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys. That’s going to have continue if we want to win.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Sullivan (2 Goals)
2. O’Reilly (3 Assists)
3. Hornqvist (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
The Predators had a perfect start, especially given the situation of playing back-to-back against division rivals. Sullivan stepped in a big way with the pair of first period goals, while Lindback held his own in the final two periods when St. Louis generated some chances.
This win speaks volumes for a Predators club that will look to improve their record to 4-0 when they host the uber-talented Capitals on Saturday night in ‘Smashville’.