After hitting a minor slump on the West Coast, the Nashville Predators get a statement win in a clash of the NHL’s two best teams.
It’s hard to argue against the Tampa Bay Lightning being the best team in the Eastern Conference, and the Nashville Predators just swept the season series over them. Granted it’s just two games, but the Predators have come out victorious twice against one of the NHL’s best teams.
You’re not reaching if you have the Predators and Lightning in a Stanley Cup showdown. Both teams have a ton of talent and are the teams to beat in their respective conferences. I’ll personally love if Nashville and Tampa Bay end up meeting in the Stanley Cup.
The Predators entered this game banged up and still recovering off of a difficult Western road trip that saw them go 2-2-1. With the expectations we have for the Predators, not an ideal road trip. However, it wasn’t a total disaster. They’re now back home and returning back to form.
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Preds come out aggressive
This game immediately took the tone of a statement game from the Predators. The aggression was high, but the Lightning equaled that intensity. Roman Josi had to take a penalty to save a goal early on. That penalty would end up being killed off by Nashville, but a nasty shot from Victor Hedman gave Tampa Bay the early lead. This shot simply beat Pekka Rinne and was a great shot.
The response from the Predators is what impresses me. They didn’t back down and kept the intensity up. Calle Jarnkrok, fresh off of his hat-trick from the last game, got in on the numerous scoring chances. The Predators finally break through on the power play. A beautiful set up from Mattias Ekholm and Jarnkrok leads to a Kyle Turris goal.
There was no let up from the Predators as they kept the intensity up. A night and day difference from how the Predators looked towards the end of their Western road trip.
A strong finish finishes it off
When you’re playing a great team like Tampa, you’re just waiting for them to make their push. Quite frankly, they never did after getting that first strike. Yes, they got a goal to make it 3-2, but the Predators controlled a lot of the action through much of the game.
The go-ahead goal gets scored by Filip Forsberg for his 13th of the season. He’s well on his way to setting some franchise records this year. Here’s what he had to say about the game courtesy of NHL.com:
"We could’ve scored a couple more goals. They had a couple of great saves there. I think that’s how we’ve got to play."
He has a good point. The Predators played arguably their most complete game of the year against a really good team. Both teams gave each other their best shot, and someone has to win ultimately. It’s nice to see it settled in regulation and not in a shootout. This is dream scenario as a Stanley Cup matchup.
After Forsberg put Nashville up 2-1, Ryan Johansen continued his steady play with a redirected goal on a shot from Craig Smith. Again, just the Predators playing aggressive and creating chances. Some bounces finally came the way of Nashville, unlike their most recent loss to Arizona.
The Lightning did cut the deficit to one goal to force the Predators to clamp down. They did just that to live up to their reputation of being a stout defense. Rinne also made some outstanding saves to preserve the victory. The score doesn’t do it justice to how exciting this game was to watch. The NHL should be thrilled at the prospect of this being a potential Stanley Cup matchup.
Three Stars of the Game
Third Star: Filip Forsberg
The go-ahead goal from Forsberg is set up by Ekholm ultimately. His offensive push up the ice gives Forsberg the chance to show off his ridiculous ability to score from far out. Forsberg’s 13th of the year has him on a favorable pace to surpass 40 goals on the season.
Second Star: Pekka Rinne
Not the best start for Rinne, but honestly it was just a great shot he was beaten by. A slap shot from Hedman is just a laser that most goaltenders aren’t stopping. He responded beautifully after than despite Tampa getting plenty of great chances. He finishes with 29 saves and a .935 save percentage.
First Star: Ryan Johansen
Johansen is the steady contributor on offense. He makes the JoFA line tick almost every night. This night was no different as he led the aggressive offensive attack. He gets two points in the game, including the insurance goal that ends up being the difference in the game. Johansen is piling up the assists and now has 20 points through 21 games. He deserves more praise than he actually gets.