By Amanda DiPaolo
The first month of the season isn’t even over, but if the NHL’s regular season ended tonight, the Nashville Predators would win the President’s Trophy as the team to record the most points in the league.
Sunday night, Nashville took on the red hot Tampa Bay Lightning. The Predators played less than 24 hours before in Dallas, shutting out the Stars 1-0. Nashville remains undefeated in regulation with a 5-0-3 record. The win marks the second time this early season that Nashville won both games in back-to-back sets.
The game was also the first time former Predators goalie Dan Ellis faced his former team.
The Lightning are tops in the Eastern Conference and boast a powerful offense. Sunday night was no different with Tampa Bay opening up the scoring. Sean Bergenheim scored 6 minutes into the first period when Pavel Kubina sent Bergenheim in alone in the slot.
The lead was not held long as Shea Weber tied things up at 11:54 into the first. Weber skated up to the net to one-time a rebound off a shot at the point from Francis Bouillon. It was Weber’s first goal of the season.
Sergei Kostitsyn scored his first goal as a Nashville Predator with a little less than 5 minutes to play in the first period. Kostitsyn was traded from Montreal to the Predators in the off season for the rights to negotiate with Dan Ellis.
The second period was highlighted by a number of penalties taken by the Predators. Martin Erat got called for tripping in the offensive zone at 4:03 of the middle frame. It was the first power play of the game for either team. The Lightning were unable to score, and Nashville killed off its 11th consecutive penalty.
Jerred Smithson was called for hooking at 8:27 and Nashville went right back to the penalty kill. With 56 seconds left on the man advantage, Tampa Bay was called for too many men on the ice. Nashville didn’t register a shot on goal on its minute man advantage.
Shane O’Brien got his first minor penalty of the season at 12:56 of the second, a two minute minor for a high sticking infraction on Steve Downie away from the play. Again, Nashville was able to stifle one of the best power plays in the NHL.
With 2 minutes to play in the second period, Cody Franson took a pass from David Legwand and he skated in alone from the blue line on Ellis, deked Ellis and was able to gently skate the puck into the net on the stick side. Tootoo had the other assist on the Franson goal. It was Franson’s second goal of the season.
The Predators, who spent a good part of the second period killing off penalties, grabbed a 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay put pressure on the Predators in the third period. With 10:13 left to play, Vincent Lecavalier had a clean breakaway and was stoned by Lindback. Sulzer took a shot from the point that was intercepted by Steven Stamkos who set up the breakaway.
Nashville would extend the lead 4-1 with 5:50 left in the third period. Dumont passed the puck to Erat who was all alone in the slot, drawing over Ellis. Instead of shooting the puck, Erat passed it over to Colin Wilson who was able to score with Ellis out of position.
Nashville has had some difficulty closing out games in the third period, giving up leads in the third to both the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Just 49 seconds after Wilson made it 4-1, Martin St. Louis scored to bring the Lightning back within 2 goals. Stamkos and Hedman picked up assists. Adam Hall added another 57 seconds later to pull within one goal of tying the game.
To make frantic matters worse for Nashville, Erat was called for cross checking Stamkos and was sent to the box with only 3:07 to play. It was the Bolts fourth power play of the night. The Predators killed off their fourth penalty of the game. With a minute left in the game, Ellis was pulled for the extra attacker, but the Lightning couldn’t find the equalizer.
Nashville has now killed off all of their penalties since calling up Nick Spaling from the Admirals to replace Marcel Goc who was injured on October 16th against Washginton.
Nashville was outshot a massive 44 shots to the Predators 26. Anders Lindback’s record is now 3-0-1.
The Predators don’t play again until Thursday night when the St. Louis Blues visit Bridgestone Arena for the second time this season.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. Predators upcoming home games Thursday night when the St. Louis Blues make their second trip to Smashville this season.