It took a game against the NHL’s last-placed team, but the Nashville Predators finally won a home game tonight: 6-1 over the Buffalo Sabres.
A night of firsts for many members of the Predators, as forwards Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok scored their first goals at the game’s top level. Even defenseman Victor Bartley dropped the gloves for the first time in his career, and Nashville ended a six-game home losing streak.
“Sissons and Calle have played way beyond their age so far. You can just tell in plays they make out there,” said Bartley. “They have such confidence, such poise. They’re not trying to toe drag or do too much; they’re making plays up the wall and they both got rewarded with goals tonight.”
Nashville controlled all three zones from the drop of the puck, and the Predators departed to the locker room with a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.
His team already holding a three-goal advantage at the 14:28 minute mark of the first, it was second-year blueliner, Bartley, who tangled with Sabres Nicolas Deslauriers.
“It started because of our battle more than anything. They’re big; I was trying to clear out the front of the net, a couple of sticks got high and I had to step in and protect Hutton,” Bartley said. “Honestly, since it was my first NHL fight, I wish I remembered it a little bit more.”
On a night where all 12 Nashville forwards found the scoresheet–Colin Wilson scored his first goal since December 30th and Jarnkrok remained red-hot with his fourth point in his first four NHL games–a whole lot went right for a Predators team that has had its share of disappointments this campaign.
“We executed pretty well and things come a lot easier when you do that,” Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. “We were able to jump on them early. Maybe they were a little surprised by some of the things we tried to do early and we capitalized on our chances, so we do deserve some credit for that.”
Giving up four goals in the first was a monumental hole to try and overcome, and the Sabres fell to 1-4 on their now completed five-game road trip.
“It was pretty ugly, and probably deserved after the first. It’s unacceptable,” Buffalo blueliner Christian Ehrhoff said. “We shouldn’t need our coach to wake us up and get us going. We have to make sure we’re ready to go from the start. It’s definitely one of the low points.”
“It was very disheartening and discouraging to see the way the guys came out,” said Sabres head coach Ted Nolan. “They didn’t come out to play in the first period. You get the right people, the right character, and the right drive and ambition; and then you don’t show up.”
The Predators first period, filled with first NHL goals and a first fight, was just what the doctor (or more accurately the coaching staff) ordered prior to the opening puck drop.
“We had talked about how we needed to treat the fans to a good game tonight because we’ve let them down a lot lately,” said Bartley. “So we wanted to give them a good show, something to cheer about. We end up popping six goals in and getting them all free frosties.”
Finally claiming two points at home tonight, Nashville now heads right back to the road to face the Dallas Stars tomorrow.
“Tomorrow we need to play a lot of the same ways we did tonight,” Bartley said. “We did a great job shutting things down in the third, which we’ve had trouble with recently. If we keep chipping pucks up the wall and maintain that gap we had for our defensive corps tonight–we can make it two straight.”