A second period, power play goal by forward Craig Smith was the game-winning tally for the Nashville Predators as they took down the Calgary Flames 4-2.
Smith started the play from the half-wall before depositing the loose puck into the net off of a rebound given up by Flames goaltender Karri Ramo.
“Having fun out there is huge,” Smith said. “You just have to play hockey and have fun. I think last year I forgot about that. It’s fun to be here and it’s fun to play hockey. To some extent I lost touch with that, but I’m having a ball this year.”
The goal was Smith’s team-leading 14th through 48 games this season, 10 more than he registered in the same time frame of the lockout-shortened campaign last year.
“I think it’s not just the player’s [fault],” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “Sometimes it’s the fans, coaches or management. They see a good first year and then they just want to raise the bar. But often it doesn’t translate that quickly and all of a sudden you get frustrated. The thing I wanted to concentrate on with Smith this year was I didn’t want to move him around. Last year I had him at right wing, left wing and center. Just trying to get him going and I don’t know if I hurt him, but this year I wanted to stick with him in one place and see if that would help.”
Familiarity has helped the third-year forward to bounce back this season, but Smith also cites another reason:
“Yeah I was fortunate enough to go to the [World Championships] last year,” Smith said. “I didn’t think I was going to go at first. I just loosened up and started being myself. Started to have fun again, that was the biggest thing. I remember having a conversation with my dad and he said, ‘You’re all tightened up.’ So I just went over there, loosened up, played with some good players and got back to using my feet. And it’s paying off this year.”
Smith’s determination play early in the third period capped off a strong few minutes for the Predators who entered the third frame tied with the Flames at one.
First a canon from the high slot by defenseman Ryan Ellis and then Smith’s goal with the man advantage, gave Nashville a 3-1 lead and the separation they’d been seeking. All coming in the first three minutes of the period.
“They got two good chances and they scored on them and we weren’t ready coming into the third period,” Flames forward Mikael Backlund said. “If you want to win games we can’t let those goals in. We have to take charge in the third if we want to win games.”
The Predators lit the lamp three times in the third period and only allowed the Flames to come within two on Backlund’s goal at the 13:07 mark of the third period.
The Flames goal wasn’t enough to tie the game for Calgary, but it was enough to make Smith’s tally earlier in the period the game-winning goal.
“I’m really happy with Smith’s game,” Trotz said. “I love the way he battles on pucks, he’s using his legs, he’s using his shot.”
Nashville leaves town tomorrow afternoon in anticipation of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at 6 pm (CST).