As soon as Nick Spaling ripped a one-timer past Henrik Lundqvist for the game’s first tally, many Nashville Predators fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That’s because Nashville hasn’t scored the first goal in their last five games, in which they were 0-4-1. The Predators have claimed ten of ten points in the last five games they’ve scored the first goal, but that hasn’t happened since November 27th.
Looking for some kind of shakeup to try and snap his team’s five-game losing streak, head coach Barry Trotz put Carter Hutton between the pipes for his first start since November 10th.
The Preds seemed to respond well, with the team finally getting a good jump to start a game (their last two first periods have seen a 3-0 frame for the Caps and Carolina scoring just 23 seconds in). For a squad that plays a whole-team defensive effort, it’s very important for Nashville to score the first goal, maybe even more so than other teams.
The Predators weren’t finished after taking a 1-0 lead, as the prettiest play of the night was claimed by Rich Clune’s backhand goal on a partial breakaway after being setup by Matt Hendricks’ saucer pass to him between two Rangers defensemen.
The relief of not only scoring first–but having their first two-goal lead in more than two weeks–clearly helped the Preds play the style of game they believed they could dominate since their acquisitions and other moves this offseason. Playing with a lead allowed Nashville to hold New York to 10 shots in the first and only six in the second period and kept the Preds from having to play the more frantic, catch-up game they’ve been forced to settle for in their last five contests.
Rick Nash’s goal to cut the Preds lead in half temporarily gave the Rangers life, but a crucial, early third period goal by Hendricks squelched the home team’s dreams of a late comeback.
Credit this win to scoring first, amazing play by the Preds fourth line and Carter Hutton looking comfortable in just his second start in a month.