Switzerland’s early elimination in the 22nd Winter Olympics sent Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi home sooner than he desired, but that was a good thing for his NHL team.
With nine points in his last 10 games prior to the Sochi hiatus, the four games of Olympic competition were an ideal mix of game action on the world stage for Josi, while still leaving plenty of time to rest before the stretch run in the NHL season.
“Obviously I went home a little sooner than I wanted from Sochi, but I guess it was good in a way,” said Josi. “My last game was last Tuesday and that gave me some time to adjust to the time zone and still get a couple days of rest and that was good for me.”
Tonight, Josi picked up where he left off prior to his international play with a game-tying, power-play goal in the second period in Nashville’s 3-2 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s a high tempo game at the Olympics,” said Josi. “We played a lot of games and Weber played even more, and it definitely keeps you in shape and keeps you up to speed. [...] On my goal, Hornqvist had a great screen in front of the net. Their goalie couldn’t see anything and then Weber made a great pass to me too.”
Playing on the Predators top defensive pairing, Josi’s quality of play is vitally important for Nashville over their final 22 games of the season and push for the playoffs.
“Josi is one of the top defensemen in his age category,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He’ll just continue to get better and tonight he had a great shot on Bishop to get it tied up. The more experiences he has in the Olympics and hopefully All-Star games down the road, he’s going to be a pretty solid guy for a long time.”
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Predators first game in nearly three weeks appeared to be heading toward an unpleasant result; something a team fighting for their postseason lives could ill afford.
Three man-advantage goals over the game’s final 30 minutes surged Nashville into the lead and propelled them to a needed two points.
“It was huge.” Josi said. “I think if you score on the power play consistently throughout the season, you’ve got a pretty good record. Special teams are huge in this league. We scored all three of our goals on the power play so clearly it can make the difference in just one game or a lot more.”
The owner of both tallies for Tampa Bay, forward Martin St. Louis, was frustrated with the blown lead: “They really tilted the ice and we couldn’t kill the penalties we took. The third period wasn’t as bad as the second, but they took it to us still and scored another power play goal.”
Weber, Josi’s defensive partner and fellow Olympic participant, also cited the benefits of playing in the Winter Games.
“It obviously helps to keep playing,” said Weber. “The break is nice for your body to rejuvenate and get back to full health, but at the same time, to keep playing at that speed is tough to replicate in practice.”
The Predators can count their first test in a five-game home stand a success. Next up for the club is an afternoon game against the Winnipeg Jets.
“It was huge game, we wanted to get that win,” Josi said. “I think from now on every game is huge. Every game is a playoff game in a sense. We need all the points we can get, and especially Saturday against Winnipeg an opponent in our division.”