A lot of us probably wrote off the Nashville Predators weeks ago, but don’t tell this same team to do that. They’re playing some of their best hockey of the season right now as they try to get back into the thick of the division race.
Last night the Nashville Predators used another commendable performance to take down another one of the divisions top teams, this time the Florida Panthers.
The Predators have now won two in a row, and are 3-2-1 on this lengthy road trip that still has two more games left on it. They’ll take on the Panthers again in Saturday afternoon action, and then follow that up with a quick turnaround to play the Dallas Stars Sunday night.
Here’s how the game unfolded and why the Predators got the upset win, and their second win of the season over the Florida Panthers.
Aggressive starts are fueling the Nashville Predators
One thing we can’t blame this team anymore for doing is having bad starts. They’ve been coming out aggressive and with a lot of energy during this road trip.
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With the exception of the 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on this current road trip, the Predators are getting through the first period very much still alive on the scoreboard. It’s the second period that’s given them more trouble than anything.
In this game the Predators were controlling a lot of the action early on, while Juuse Saros was looking locked in for his first start back from injury. There didn’t seem to be any rust from him whatsoever.
The Predators would have a goal wiped away to take the early lead thanks to goaltender interference call. It was a light graze of the pad on Sergei Bobrovsky, but a call that the NHL officials make regularly.
With the score remaining at zeros, the Panthers would eventually break through first thanks to another gorgeous set up Patric Hornqvist, whih saw Jonathan Huberdeau tally his 11th goal of the season, and his sixth goal against the Predators this season.
The Predators didn’t let it slip away
That Huberdeau goal was just one where you have to tip your cap and keeping plugging away. The Predators went into the first intermission and came out firing again in the second period.
Despite the early deficit, the Predators didn’t let it snowball into something worse like they’ve done in several other games. They stayed engaged, and Saros stayed locked in as the Panthers continued to pepper him with shots.
A critical turning point in the game was the Yakov Trenin penalty early on in the second period. The Predators penalty kill had to come up big in this moment as the Predators were in danger of falling behind by two goals.
The penalty kill would come up successful and keep it a one-goal game, until
would eventually get free to nab his 8th goal of the season by skating into a high-danger area to slap it past Bobrovsky.
Jarnkrok just has a knack for finding the back of the net right now. He’s on another level while we see
going through somewhat of a scoring drought.
The Panthers would put up another 15 shots on Saros in the second period, while the Predators would manage just seven of their own on Bobrovsky.
Saros didn’t allow this one to turn into a multi-goal deficit for the Predators to have to dig out of. Anything can happen if the Predators can get carried by both Saros and Pekka Rinne.
Another big penalty kill came in the third period on an interference call that sent Mattias Ekholm to the box. A call he wasn’t happy with, but one that you see called regularly. Predators had to kill another big penalty up 2-1, and they did just that.
Calle Jarnkrok has elevated his level of play
Jarnkrok would add another goal shortly into the third period after finding another high-danger area and having an open net. This assist comes off the stick of Mikael Granlund, and the Predators were suddenly playing with a lead with nearly an entire third period still remaining.
The Panthers would muster up another 13 shots on goal, but Saros once again wasn’t letting anything easy get past him on this night. He’d finish with 40 saves on 41 shots faced to get his sixth win of the season.
Going back to Jarnkrok, he now has eight points over the six games on this current road trip. He only trails Forsberg for the team’s lead in goals, and is also third on the team in points with 15.
Last season in 64 games Jarnkrok finished with 34 points, which was just one shy of his career high. If this was a normal 82-game season, he could be well on his way to setting a new career high in points and goals.
In season filled with injuries and younger players having to take control, Jarnkrok has been one of the few veterans to step up and keep this team’s head above water. He’s also dramatically increasing his trade value if the Predators decide to sell off, which still seems likely.
The Predators now sit in sixth place in the division with 27 points, and trail the Chicago Blackhawks by six points for the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Dallas Stars have played four fewer games than the Predators and are just two points back, amplifying Sunday night’s game even more between these two teams.