A complete game on both sides of the puck brought the Nashville Predators their first win of 2014; 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks.
The Preds have lacked a strong offensive and defensive effort in a single game for several weeks, going 2-5-3 in their previous 10 games.
When the offense has been scoring, the defense has been almost non-existent and vice versa.
Dropping the last three-games on the road–two of which were to teams not in the playoff picture–the Predators seemed unlikely to skate away with a victory against the Sharks (27-10-6), one of the top teams in the league.
“I think we know we have to have an A-game against the Sharks,” Preds head coach Barry Trotz said. “They have so many weapons up front and their back end is strong too. They’re a well-oiled machine and they can come at you in different ways.”
Last month, the Predators defeated the Sharks 3-2 on home ice; a win that first hinted at Nashville’s surprising ability to compete with a very offensive and deep San Jose club.
“We’ve got some good match-ups with them in certain areas.” Trotz explained. “You’ve got to know they’re going to throw a lot of pucks on the net. They’re one of the best teams in the league at tipping pucks. You’ve got to control sticks and block some shots– cause when they do get it into that perimeter area–they’re a lot to handle.”
Again tonight, Nashville capitalized on the advantages they do hold over the Sharks and the Preds jumped out to the first lead of the game, a position from which they excel.
In the second period, David Legwand tallied the game’s first goal off a San Jose turnover, putting the Predators in the driver’s seat early. Tonight’s victory improved the club to 16-1-4 when scoring first this season (and 17-0-3 when lighting the lamp three or more times).
“We had the lead from the beginning, which is a nice way to do it.” Predators forward Colin Wilson said. “It really helps us when we can play with the lead from the start.”
A strong second frame left Nashville with a 3-1 lead and the ability to sit back and not take risks on the offensive end.
“Especially going up 3-1 was huge,” Wilson said. “We don’t get to play with too many two-goal leads, so I think the guys responded really well to that cushion.”
Being able to shutdown an opponent with their defensive system, while still getting offensive opportunities, the Predators claimed two points in a game for the first time in eight days.
Marek Mazanec, making his fifth start in six games, also played well for Nashville. The rookie Czech netminder stopped 26 of 28 shots and allowed the Predators to maintain their advantage obtained early in the second for the remainder of the contest.
“I think we’re resilient, kind of take away their offense,” Wilson said. “They’re a very good, dynamic offense, so we make sure not to turn pucks over and it has been working out.”
Nashville starts their five-game home stand with a much needed victory. They face another Western Conference fire-power the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at 7 pm (CST).