Before tonight the last time the Nashville Predators played on their home ice at Bridgestone Arena was way back on January 21st, when they lost in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues. Since then they’ve been on the road, shaking off a little more of the lockout rust with each game before arriving back home the owners of a three-game winning streak. Tonight they made it four straight with their most dominant performance of the season, all in front of a sellout crowd.
After Rich Clune and Kyle Clifford dropped the gloves two minutes into the game, Gabriel Bourque got the party started at 2:54 when the Kings left him wide open in the slot. He buried a slap shot on a feed from David Legwand to give Nashville the 1-0 lead:
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne got his first shutout of the season tonight. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
The Kings had the shot advantage in the first period, 8-7, but they poured it on in the second and finished the period ahead of Nashville 28-12 for the game. None of it mattered as most of those shots were coming from the outside with little traffic, making easy work for Pekka Rinne. And there was the matter of Colin Wilson scoring twice.
The first one was a gorgeous play at 7:01 where Wilson entered the zone, left a slick drop pass for Paul Gaustad, and charged to the net. Gaustad held the puck in the corner while Kevin Klein battled in front of Jonathan Quick. Then Gaustad fired a pass to Wilson and the puck was in the net for a 2-0 Nashville lead before Quick knew what had happened.
Colin Wilson has heated up in a hurry. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
Six minutes later Wilson grabbed his second goal of the game, this time on five seconds into a power play. Shea Weber picked up his first point of the season after winding up probably the best slapper he’s taken all season. Wilson tipped the shot down and then buried his own rebound for a 3-0 Preds lead.
The third period saw just six shots between the two teams, four of them for Los Angeles. Pekka Rinne didn’t have to expend much effort most of the night en route to his first shutout of the year, and the Nashville Predators improved to 5-2-3 on the season with the win.
- Colin Wilson has shown lots of promise in his first few seasons in the NHL, but right now he’s finally beginning to look like he player the Nashville Predators front office hoped for when they picked him in the first round of the draft. Tonight marks the first time he’s ever recorded consecutive multi-point games, coming on the heels of his three assists on Tuesday. He’s playing a very dynamic game at the moment, driving to the net and looking to create scoring chances at every opportunity. That’s making everyone he lines up with that much more dangerous, which is a big part of why Nashville is on a winning streak right now.
- Barry Trotz has talked about how Gabriel Bourque energizes every line he plays on. Putting him on a line with Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn was a brilliant move on Trotz’s part. Bourque’s tendency to always be active keeps SK74 and Leggy from having the option to disappear like they sometimes do. Plus they’re all fleet of foot, which is very helpful for playing Nashville’s classic style.
- Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced tonight and is now 4-2-3 on the season after starting it 0-2-3. He’s won four consecutive starts by giving up just three goals, all of which have come with his team trying to kill a penalty. In that span he has a 0.72 GAA and a .974 save percentage. He hasn’t given up an even-strength goal since January 28th and appears to be settling into a comfort zone that’s bad news for Nashville’s opponents. Preds fans will be hoping that carries over to this weekend’s showdown with the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
- With the win and a loss by St. Louis, the Predators have moved into sole possession of second place in the Central Division. It’s a situation that looked highly improbable after the Preds went 1-2-3 in their first six games, averaging just 1.67 goals per game and being shut out twice. With Pekka Rinne in the zone and the offense beginning to find its gears, fans are getting a healthy (and long overdue) dose of Nashville Predators hockey. The question now is how long the team can keep it up.