There are some teams you just can’t seem to figure out, and Arizona has been that team for the Nashville Predators up until last night.
The Nashville Predators are trying to stay within striking distance of the first-place Winnipeg Jets in the division. They also have the Dallas Stars nipping at their heels, and a shrinking lead to stay in the top-three of the division. They really needed a win over an Arizona team that has had their number in recent meetings. I don’t care where Arizona is at in the standings, they always have my confidence low that the Predators will find a way to win.
Aside from Kyle Turris, the Predators are mainly playing at full strength now. They’re getting back to playing the way we’re accustomed to seeing them play with Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and P.K. Subban back in the lineup. This game unfolded in exciting fashion with a lot of offensive zone time for the Predators, forcing Arizona to play with their backs up against the wall. An aggressive style of hockey we didn’t see much from the Predators the last couple of months.
Let’s dive into how everything happened as the Predators get a 5-2 win to avoid a season sweep to Arizona.
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Predators give up first blood
The Predators wasted no time putting pressure on Arizona’s Calvin Pickard in net. With 16 shots on goal in the first period, it looked like Nashville was going to be in store for a high-scoring night. However, Pickard held his own to keep Nashville of the board. A common theme from the first two meetings Arizona when Nashville managed just one goal.
Arizona plays a physical and aggressive style of defense that leaves very little room to operate. However, that wasn’t the case in this game. The Predators had plenty of opportunities from the start to blow this game open early on. With Pickard keeping them off the board, Arizona would strike first with a goal from Vinnie Hinostroza. I don’t say this often, but Pekka Rinne gets the blame for this one. He gives up a big rebound that allows Arizona to set up for an easy goal. Essentially a turnover that forces the Predators to play from behind.
Going into the first intermission the panic meter was low for me. The Predators were controlling most of the action and just needed a few breaks to bounce their way.
An electrifying second period
The second period the Predators really break out and bust the game wide open. The turning point for me comes after the Predators kill off a 5-on-3 disadvantage to keep Arizona from going up by two goals. They tack on another 19 shots on Pickard, and Craig Smith tallies the first goal of the game for his 15th of the season. He bangs it home on a rebound and banks it off Pickard’s pad. The floodgates open after this.
After an eight-game goal drought, Filip Forsberg gets his 19th of the season an a nasty wrist shot that beats Pickard top shelf. Forsberg has been contributing in other ways, but seeing him get that goal is uplifting after he missed so much time. The Predators kept the pressure on Arizona throughout the second period.
Ryan Ellis puts the Predators up 3-1 after crashing the net and banging home his sixth goal of the season. Heading into the third period, my confidence meter was pretty maxed out that the Predators would salt this one away pretty easy. Maybe I was a slightly overconfident as the Coyotes did make one final push to make things interesting. They didn’t go down easily and the Predators had to grind out the last ten minutes. Arizona even made a bold move by pulling their goalie with over four minutes left in the game. Goals from Calle Jarnkrok and Roman Josi preserve the win for the Predators as they move to 68 points on the season and three behind Winnipeg for first place.