By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators, in a fight to keep their playoff hopes alive, came out strong against the Minnesota Wild scoring two goals in the first four minutes of play on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators went on to win the game 4-0.
Head Coach Barry Trotz said the Predators need to take the next 14 games one game at a time. “I know that’s cliched, but that’s what it is.” Trotz said. “The advantage to us right now is that other teams are traveling. Minnesota is on a little bit of a road trip; we’re at home. The wear-and-tear should be a little bit less, but our focus is going to have to be great.”
Joel Ward scored his second goal in as many games 3:13 into the opening frame. From the top of the right circle, Marty Erat passed the puck to David Legwand behind the net. Legwand found an open Ward in front of the Wild goal. Ward beat Niklas Backstrom glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. The goal was Ward’s ninth of the season.
Nick Spaling picked up his sixth goal of the year 48 seconds later to give Nashville the two goal lead. Jerred Smithson and Matt Halischuk picked up the assists. “It was a great pass” Spaling said of the play. “It was a good play by [Halischuk] behind the net to take the hit and get the puck to [Smithson], and he found me at the back door wide open. So, it was a good play by them,” Spaling said.
The Predators would take a 3-0 lead by the end of the period. Martin Erat scored his 12th goal of the season at 12:32. Legwand’s shot towards the goal went off Ward in front of the net, but it was Erat’s effort that lead to the three goal lead. Erat rushed the net and was able to tap in the loose puck in the crease before Backstrom could find it.
There was no scoring in the second period.
The Predators rounded out the game’s scoring when Nick Spaling picked up his 7th goal of the season with just under 7 minutes to play in the third period to make it a four-goal game. Shea Weber held possession of the puck down to the side of the net finding Spaling who was just 11 feet in front of the net.
“I think we came out sticking to the game plan that we set out. We were just trying to get pucks in deep and find the net,” Spaling said of the night’s effort, adding ”we had a good forecheck in the first, and I think we wanted to do that coming home for our first game here.”
Pekka Rinne picked up his 6th shutout of the season. Rinne has closed the gap between him and Tim Thomas for best goals against average and save percentage. Rinne’s goals against now sits at 2.08, Thomas is at 2.01. Thomas has a save percentage of .939 percent, Rinne’s save percentage is 9.30 percent.
Nashville ends the night in 9th spot in the Western Conference standings, just one point out of 8th. The Predators homestand continues on Saturday when they host the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena.
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