The Nashville Predators were riding a three-game losing streak heading into last night’s game with the similarly slumping Edmonton Oilers. Things got bad enough that general manager David Poile began making personnel changes like they were going out of style. As it turned out that was exactly what the team needed to bounce back from its slump.
The Preds broke the tie on the power play at 6:07 of the first period on a classic Patric Hornqvist goal after Mike Fisher fired a shot from the slot and Colin Wilson tried to stuff home the rebound. Hornqvist succeeded on the second try and the Preds were up 1-0. Rich Clune and Mike Brown dropped the gloves on the ensuing faceoff, but Edmonton took no energy from the altercation.
Nashville continued to press the attack throughout the first without another goal until David Legwand scored the Preds’ flukiest goal of the season for a 2-0 lead at 18:51. Colin Wilson picked up his second assist of the game on that chip shot from center ice, which got Devan Dubnyk the hook.
Yann Danis replaced Dubnyk to start the second period and promptly gave up a goal to Rich Clune at 0:51 for a 3-0 Nashville lead. The Oilers managed to fight back some in the second, leading shots 10-8. They also injured Patric Hornqvist on a nasty hit from behind by Theo Peckham. Paul Gaustad stepped up to fight Peckham at 6:00, but things ended too quickly for five-minute majors and the two were given coincidental roughing minors. Peckham took an extra minor for holding. The Preds didn’t score on the power play, but they finally made it 4-0 on Zach Boychuk’s first goal as a Nashville Predator, a tip-in at 18:22 off a Shea Weber slap shot that was his first NHL goal since January 26, 2011.
The third period was all Nashville as the Preds outshot the Oilers 13-6 despite holding a four-goal lead. Colin Wilson added two goals to his two assists – one at 4:43 from Mike Fisher and Weber, the other at 16:39 on the power play from Weber and Craig Smith – and Nashville finished out the game in style for Pekka Rinne’s fourth shutout of the season.
- The lines from last night’s game:
Bourque – Legwand – Wilson
Boychuk – Fisher – Hornqvist
Butler – Smith – Erat
Kostitsyn – Gaustad – Clune
- The game’s official three stars were Colin Wilson (2G-2A), Pekka Rinne (24 saves-0 GA), and Shea Weber (0G-3A). That’s a template for Smashville success if I’ve ever seen one.
- This was Wilson’s first career four-point game, and Weber’s first three-point game since December 22, 2011.
- The Nashville Predators were all attack from the get-go in this game. What a welcome sight. It’s clear that the personnel moves and the three days of listening to Barry Trotz tell them what needed to happen got through to this bunch. During the third period, backup goalie Chris Mason said as much in his interview with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp. “We got called out this week,” Mason said. “It’s a real character check for our team. The boys answered the call.”
- This was just the second time the Preds have scored six goals in a game this season. The first came February 5th against the St. Louis Blues. Their six goals in that game came on 19 shots. Their six last night came on 34 shots.
- Pekka Rinne reclaimed sole possession of the NHL lead in shutouts with this game, his fourth blanking of the season. He was in fantastic form all night, a welcome sight after his last six games.
- There was no word on Patric Hornqvist after the game other than that he will miss tonight’s game against Minnesota. He skated off the ice very slowly and immediately departed the ice via the tunnel, never to return.
Colin Wilson was realistic after the game about what the sudden breakthrough means for the Preds. “It’s a good feeling, but we realize we have to build on it,” he said. “Maybe if we put together a string of games, 10 games, we’ll feel pretty good about ourselves but right now it’s just one game.” It’s good to see that realization from the team that a single win, no matter how impressive, isn’t going to cut it. Consistent competition is the key.
- Bobby Butler was one of a handful of Nashville Predators players not to get on the scoresheet, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Butler impressed in the first game with Nashville, drawing three penalties and firing three shots on net. The combination of him with Craig Smith and Martin Erat was highly dynamic, which is a phrase I haven’t used this season to describe any part of this team before right now.
- Victor Bartley was also held off the scoresheet in his first game with the Preds, but he looked like he belonged on the ice all night.
- Rich Clune has looked better on the ice with every passing week. He was one assist away from the Gordie Howe Hat Trick for the night, after fighting Mike Brown in the first period and subsequently scoring his second goal of the season. His previous goal this season was in the Preds’ only other six-goal game, against St. Louis.
- Matt Halischuk, who was sent down to Milwaukee on a conditioning assignment earlier in the week, had two goals in his first game for the Admirals last night. That’s exactly two more than he had in 16 games with the Nashville Predators this season. He was named the first star of the game.