Preds Offense Awakens Against ‘Canes

Thanks to a great all-around effort from all four lines and defensive pairings, the Predators wrapped up another two points and their third straight win by beating the Hurricanes 5-2 at home on Saturday. Martin Erat (along with linemates Marcel Goc and Sergei Kostitsyn) was named the first star as he stole the show with three assists.

The Preds started out with a bang when Patric Hornqvist slammed home a Cody Franson point shot at 2:33. Hornqvist’s goal was his first since November 7, a long drought for the 30-goal scorer from a year ago.

Carolina didn’t waste much to respond, though. Eighteen seconds later, Joe Corvo’s wrist shot from an off-angle eluded Anders Lindback to tie the game at 1-1.

At 10:08 of the first, Shea Weber put Nashville back on top with his fourth goal of the season. He snuck in back-door, where Erat found him wide open. Seven minutes later, Marcel Goc ripped home his sixth of the year to give the Preds a 3-1 lead. The goal came at the end of a long shift from the Goc-Erat-Kostitsyn line.

The opening frame was one of Nashville’s best all season. They generated many scoring chances and maintained pressure in the offensive zone.

The middle stanza started with a much slower pace, and Carolina struck at 9:43 to cut the deficit to 3-2. Jiri Tlusty pounced on a loose puck and deposited it over Lindback’s glove shoulder. For the rest of the period, both teams traded scoring chances but couldn’t get on the board.

The Preds finally got their first power play opportunity early on in the third, but could not capitalize. However, they did have many scoring chances as they held possession in Carolina’s zone for the full two minutes. Sixteen seconds after the power play expired, Cal O’Reilly buried a beautiful cross-ice feed from Erat to put the home team on top 4-2. It was one of those goals that you could anticipate as it was unfolding.

The red-hot penalty kill went back to work (twice) later on in the third, and once again stoned the ‘Canes. Nashville killed all four Carolina power plays on the night.

With approximately three minutes left, Paul Maurice decided to pull Cam Ward, down two goals. It didn’t pay off as Steve Sullivan immediately iced the 5-2 win with an empty-netter at the 17:10 mark.

Post-Game Observations:

- Nashville’s penalty kill is now 32-for-32, ever since ‘that day’ in Toronto.

- The Erat/Goc/Kostitsyn line was a force in this game. They contributed to three of the five goals, including three assists from Erat. They combined for five points and a +8 rating.

- J.P. Dumont received only 4:30 of ice-time. Trotz would only go as far as saying it was a coach’s decision to give him that much time.

- The Preds dominated the first, seemingly taking advantage of a Hurricanes team that was on the second half of a back-to-back. Midway through the first, the Preds held a 9-2 shot advantage and had a lot of offensive zone pressure.

- Lindback was a bit rusty to start, allowing a soft goal on the first shot he faced. He looked more comfortable as the game went on, though, and put forth a solid effort in Pekka Rinne’s absence.

Post-Game Quotes:

Trotz on taking advantage of Carolina on back-to-back…

“I think everybody wanted to come out with a good effort. The fans have been fantastic and we usually give them 65 minutes of pure enjoyment. One thing I was really happy with today is that sometimes when you play an eastern team – and Carolina has Staal and some really dynamic players – we didn’t take them for granted and showed a lot of respect to them as a team. They are well-coached and play with a lot of pace. Our guys came out and matched the effort and we were really smart with the puck.”

Trotz on Kostitsyn…

“I think you can see he’s coming over to our culture, if you will, and is starting to play the way we want him to play. When he’s doing the things we want, it really shows us what he’s capable of doing.”

Trotz on Lindback…

“Early in the game he may have looked a little nervous, but he settled in just fine and was pretty good.”

Erat on the resurgent offense…

“Sometimes it takes longer to find chemistry in the lines. Right now we’re going good; all four lines are playing good. We’re getting goals from everybody and that’s important us because the opponents don’t know who exactly to match up against.”

Sullivan on the resurgent offense…

“I think it’s just players playing a little bit better. When you look at who is scoring most of the goals, it has been Erat’s line. He’s been the catalyst behind it… he’s starting to find his rhythm and when he gets going like that, he’s a tough player to stop. He’s got some good chemistry with Kostitsyn, and he’s playing really well, too.”

Lindback on the game…

“I should’ve had that first goal, but I felt better as the game went on and the last period I felt good. I didn’t really feel any nerves, it was more of a timing thing. It was pretty easy to play, otherwise.”

Jerred Smithson on the penalty kill…

“It’s just been a lot of hard work. From the goaltender out, he’s got to be our best penalty killer, and tonight he was. And also some great sacrifice – you look at Nick Spaling and Kevin Klein and those guys blocking shots doing whatever it takes to keep the puck out of the net. That’s what it takes to kill off penalties these days.”

Final Thoughts:

This was a pretty big win for the Preds, knowing the upcoming schedule. They took care of some opportunities early, which gave them a little bit of a cushion. They let Carolina back into the game in the second, but locked things down and pulled away to take home two crucial points.

Up next are two measuring stick road games. First up, the Preds will take on their southern neighbors in Atlanta on Monday; the Thrashers are one of the hottest teams in the league. Then they’ll head north to face rival Detroit in a key divisional tilt. It will be important for Trotz’s gang to keep this momentum going against two playoff contenders.

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