Games in consecutive nights against the Pacific Division’s top two teams was a tall order, but the Nashville Predators emerged with a pair of victories nonetheless.
Following a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, the Predators encore performance was a 3-0 beat down of the San Jose Sharks yesterday. With three-point games in both contests, forward Patric Hornqvist paced the suddenly red-hot Nashville offense.
A burden seems to have lifted off the Predators proverbial shoulders since their playoffs chances dwindled to all but nothing a few weeks ago. With solid goaltending and strong play from their top line (forwards Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher and Hornqvist), Nashville has now strung together three wins in a row. They’ve never hit four-consecutive victories, and they’ve only reached three-straight three other times this campaign.
Hornqvist recorded the game’s first two goals in the second period, marking the fifth time in the last six games a Predator has tallied two goals in a contest. The two goals just over five minutes apart gave Nashville a firm hold on the game after weathering a relentless Sharks attack during the opening 25 minutes of the contest. Goaltender Carter Hutton made nine of his 35 saves in the first period to keep the game scoreless and ultimately recorded his first career NHL shutout.
Taking down the Sharks and Ducks in consecutive days is nothing to be breezed over. Both clubs have over 100 points, potent offenses and sit in the second and third slots in the Western Conference. But perhaps even more impressive than the two wins for Nashville was the manner in which both of the victories came.
A four-goal first period in Anaheim on Friday and three markers in the second frame against San Jose last night, the Predators seized control of both games and didn’t look back. Strong performances from Fisher, Wilson and Hornqvist against the “Pacific pair” let Nashville settle into each contest and avoid having to try and keep pace with these fearsome opponents.
Hornqvist’s two tallies against the Sharks gave him 20 on the year, making him the fourth Predator to hit that quota. One night prior against the Ducks Fisher joined the same group, giving Nashville four 20-goal scorers in a season for the first time since 2007-2008.
Powerful offense mixed with timely saves by their goaltenders represents a new recipe for success discovered by the Predators these last two games, and they’ll certainly try to keep using it.
It could be four wins in a row for the first time this season, when the Predators conclude their three-game road trip against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.