The Nashville Predators entered tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames the losers of four consecutive games, including a 6-3 blowout at the hands of the Flames last Friday. The finished the night by breaking the streak with a 5-3 win on the strength of two goals from Mike Fisher and three points from Martin Erat.
Things looked good for the Preds early as they came out with some jump in their collective step. Taylor Beck looked good with two slid scoring chances in the early going, the second of which drew a hooking call on T.J. Brodie for the Preds’ first power play of the night. Then Roman Josi was stripped of the puck at the blue line by Lee Stempniak, who shot down the left wall, hit the brakes, and found Mark Giordano streaking into the zone for a slap shot to beat Pekka Rinne and give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
The next time Nashville drew a power play things went a little better to start. On the first half of a Mikael Backlund double minor for high-sticking Ryan Ellis, Josi fired a shot from the blue line and Martin Erat tipped it past Miikka Kiprusoff at 11:36 to tie the game at 1-1. But the second half of the power play went poorly once again as the Flames scored another shorthanded goal, this time by Blake Comeau at 13:05 on the assist from Giordano, to take the 2-1 lead.
Not too long would elapse before Erat made another fine play, picking off the puck behind the Calgary net on a weak pass by Chris Butler and immediately dishing a soft backhand pass to Mike Fisher. Fish slapped it home and the game was tied at 2-2 heading into the second period.
In the second Nashville was unable to convert an early power play after the Flames had too many men on the ice, and they piled on chances during two minutes of 4-on-4 while Shea Weber and Lee Stempniak served coincidental minors but failed to score. They finally broke through at 13:34 when Roman Josi slid a perfect pass through the crease to Mike Fisher, who buried the puck into a wide open net for a 3-2 Nashville lead. Exactly one minute later they made it 4-2 on a very slick team play initiated by Kevin Klein. He pump-faked at the blue line and dished left to Victor Bartley, who fired a line-drive pass to Nick Spaling at the goalmouth for the tip-in.
From there it was all Nashville Predators. The Flames looked like the Preds did the last four games, with no real spark to their game. Nashville continued to press and determine the pace of the game, even if they weren’t really generating many scoring chances. They did have to kill off two penalties, including a bad one from Brandon Yip for delay of game after blindly backhanding the puck over the glass in the Nashville zone. He made up for it at 15:54 by putting away a nifty feed from Klein for a 5-2 lead:
Calgary scored on the power play at 19:00 but it was too little, too late, and Nashville finally broke its four-game slide.
- Tonight was a must-win for the Nashville Predators, who couldn’t afford to slide any further back in the Western Conference if they still want to make the playoffs without having to pull off a ridiculous winning streak to close out the season. They’re still going to have to play pretty close to perfect as it is.
- Pekka Rinne looked mostly solid in the second and third periods, but the most important thing tonight was that he didn’t lose his cool after the team in front of him allowed Calgary two odd-man rushes. Any chance the Preds have at the playoffs rests first and foremost on his shoulders, and tonight’s win showed character.
- The Nashville Predators outshot Calgary 23-22. Nashville led the first and second periods in shots on goal, 10-7 and 10-8 respectively. The Flames, trying to come from behind, won the third period 7-3.
- The Nashville Predators power play still has a long, long way to go. They were 1-for-4 tonight, but they gave up two shorthanded goals.
- Speaking of which…tonight was the first time in franchise history the Predators have given up two SH goals in a single period. That they came back for the win showed the resilient character Preds fans expect. That they even had to do so, particularly against a team as bad as the Flames, says there are still lots of holes in their game.
- Martin Erat’s goal in the first period was his first since February 5th, breaking a 21-game goalless streak for last season’s leading Nashville Predators scorer. And his play to cut off the puck behind the Calgary net and dish it on the backhand to Mike Fisher for the tying goal was the kind of smart, reactive hockey that’s been missing from his game for far too long. I’m glad to see Marty back, but he’s going to need to play most of the last 17 games like he did tonight to make up for such a poor showing during the rest of the season.
- Mike Fisher just missed getting a hat trick. At the end of the game, with Rich Clune serving two minutes for roughing, the Flames pulled Kiprusoff. Nashville cleared the puck down the ice and Fisher was the first to get to it, but the Calgary defenders got back before he could wrap back around the goal.
- Roman Josi picked up two assists tonight, bringing his season total to 10. Along with four goals that ties him with David Legwand for fifth on the team in points (14).
- Kevin Klein had two assists tonight, bringing his total for the season to seven. They were his first points since an assist on February 27th at Anaheim. It was also his first two-point game since February 7th at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
- It was a good night for some of the newer Nashville Predators players. Victor Bartley picked up his first NHL point on that sweet assist to Spaling in the second period. And Bobby Butler now has assists in two straight games, having picked up the secondary on the Erat power play goal in the first. Butler was pointless in his first five games for the Preds.
- Nashville gets a day off before facing Columbus at home. If the Preds team that showed up tonight can be coaxed down to Bridgestone to face the Jackets, things ought to go a lot different than they did at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night.