What a game it was last night in the Sunshine State as the Nashville Predators handed the blazing Florida Panthers just their 11th regulation loss of the season. It didn’t come easy, as you would expect.
The Predators entered the night on a four-game losing streak and sputtering since the All Star break. The equivilant of a car leaking oil, and you’re just trying to get it to the shop before more damage is done.
The combination of a difficult string of opponents and coming out a little rusty has plunged the Predators back into the wildcard position. They’re likely going to be in a battle with a few teams until the final weeks.
It took three different comeback attempts as the Predators fell behind 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 as the Panthers relentless offensive attack peppered backup goaltender David Rittich.
In the end, the Nashville Predators prevailed with a 6-4 win to get back into the win column. Their first win in three weeks. Here’s three reasons the Predators got the huge upset win.
Rittich comes up clutch, shows no rust
In just his third start since December 30, Rittich was an absolutely stud in this one. He’s a major reason why the Panthers didn’t put up three or four more goals. He made some ridiculously difficult saves, including a one-on-one save on Aleksander Barkov while the Predators were on the power play.
Rittich closes out the night with 44 saves and by far his best start as a member of the Nashville Predators.
It’s been the talk around town that the Predators need to find ways to get more starts for Rittich, but throwing him in against the highest scoring team in the NHL seemed destined for disaster.
However, Rittich had other plans and showed really no signs of rust. Yes, he gave up four goals but they were all on difficult shots to stop for any goaltender, including one that went through a screen of five players forcing him to attempt a blind save.
Nashville Predators play much more disciplined
This was one of the more clean games the Predators have played in a while. A lot of crisp passing, smart defensively play and stay true to their brand of physical hockey.
Again, despite the four Panthers goals, the Predators made them work for every inch of that ice after the initial power play goal by Sam Reinhart. The team really buckled down to play a strong team-oriented game after falling behind 1-0.
There were dramatic swings in momentum several times throughout the game. What seemed like the back-breaker was when Rittich thought he had the puck covered, but it somehow squeeked by him for one of the softest goals you’ll ever see.
That put the Predators behind 4-3 in the third period and felt like the crushing blow that would send them to a fifth-straight loss. But once again, the Predators didn’t throw in the towel despite some bad fortune.
would end up breaking loose while on the penalty kill to get maybe the goal of the year for the Nashville Predators. Just a gorgeous goal from a player that still should be getting Calder Trophy consideration after that performance last night:
Jeannot would also add a empty-netter to salt this one away for the Predators. Losing streak over, and in a massive way by taking down the Florida Panthers.
Forsberg creeping up on franchise record
It’s really just becoming commonplace for Filip Forsberg to put up multi-point nights. We expect this from him now.
Forsberg put up three points last night, including the team’s first goal when he didn’t give up on the puck and scored through the scrum in front of the net.
If Forsberg keeps up his current goal pace, it’s likely he’ll be in line to pass Viktor Arvidsson‘s franchise record for goals in a season (34) at some point during the third week of March. That’s three road games against Anaheim, Los Angeles and Vegas.
Of course we’d all much rather see him break the record at home, so maybe Forsberg can get it done on March 19 against the Maple Leafs, which is also interestingly enough the last game before the March 21 trade deadline.
Also with 31 games remaining, Forsberg is also on pace to shatter his career high in points (64), and even come close to Paul Kariya‘s franchise record of 85 points in a season. That one will be difficult to break, but he has a reasonable chance. He’s averaging over a point per game and on pace for right at 80 points.
Honorable mention and what’s next
Finding a reliable line combination of Duchene, Forsberg and Mikael Granlund has been so incredibly beneficial to all three players involved. A major catalyst to why the Predators are where they are in the standings.
Major props is owed to Dante Fabbro for his pinpoint pass to Yakov Trenin on the backhand goal that tied it at 3-3. He threaded the needle from center ice to find a springing Trenin who made the power move to beat Sergie Bobrovsky.
Up next is, well, one of the biggest weeks in franchise history. Pekka Rinne will get his jersey lifted to the rafters on Thursday as the Nashville Predators have another critical matchup with the Dallas Stars. Festivities start at 6 P.M. CT.
Then on Saturday it’s the Stadium Series game at Nissan Stadium against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 PM CT.