Since the trade deadline, Thursday night’s game was one that many Nashville Predators fans had circled on the calendar as a must-win. The Buffalo Sabres had been struggling all season, and without Ryan Miller between the pipes, the Predators took full advantage of a weak Sabres team in an all-around dominating 6-1 victory. In this game, each forward for Nashville registered at least one point.
Thursday’s game saw two exciting firsts. Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok both tallied their first National Hockey League goals. Below, Jarnkrok talks about his first goal. Following the video is a complete game recap.
The first period began fairly slow for both teams. Not many shots on goal were taken by either squad. Things got exciting at Bridgestone Arena when there was a flurry in front of goaltender Matt Hackett and Colton Sissons registered his first National Hockey League goal at 6:26. Whacking the puck in off of shots from Rich Clune and Eric Nystrom, the North Vancouver, British Columbia native spoke recently about becoming a role player for the team. This goal is certainly a step in the right direction.
“I’m glad I could get that first goal,” said Sissons. ” We needed to get those two points, and we felt we dominated for most of the night.”
Following the goal, the Predators were put on the power play when Henrik Tallinder took a hooking penalty. On the power play, Nashville was able to move the puck around, but wasn’t able to get it past Hackett. A unique moment happened during the penalty kill when Pekka Rinne, playing the role of back-up for the game, caught a loose puck flying toward the bench with his glove, further proving that the elite goaltender is back.
A goal from Colin Wilson seemed to open the floodgates for the Predators. At 11:44 of the first, Wilson broke his goal-less drought by poking the puck past Hackett as Christian Ehrhoff tried to clear it. Wilson’s goal was his first since December 30, 2013 when he had two goals against the Red Wings. Registering assists on the goal were Viktor Stalberg and Nick Spaling.
“[I was] just trying to get pucks to the net,” said Wilson on his goal. “I feel like I’ve been getting my chances. They ust haven’t been going in.”
Just nine seconds after Wilson’s goal, the Predators faithful were able to witness another first career NHL goal when Calle Jarnkrok took a tip pass from Gabriel Bourque that was perfectly centered for him and slapped it in past Hackett. Jarnkrok has been on fire, registering four points in four games for the Predators.
“I’m playing with very good players,” said Jarnkrok on what led to his first goal. “They worked very hard to get it and gave me a very good pass for a chance to put it in.”
In an unusual event just minutes later, Victor Bartley was very upset with Nicolas Deslauriers after a whistle in the Nashville zone. The two ended up dropping the gloves and earning five-minute majors for fighting.
Late in the first, a series of unfortunate events happened for the Sabres as they took two penalties less than 10 seconds apart. The first penalty was a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 17:39. Following that was a delay of game penalty for closing his hand on the puck to Johan Larsson at 17:47, giving the Predators a 5-on-3 power play.
During the entirety of the penalties, Nashville was able to find multiple shooting and passing lanes, almost toying with Buffalo. As the penalties neared their end, Shea Weber released a bomb from the point at 19:17 for his 19th goal of the season. Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist tallied assists on the goal.
Even though the Sabres came in with the worst record in the NHL, the Nashville Predators put on a clinic in the first period. Going into the first intermission, Nashville was dominating in every factor of the game. Leading 4-0 on the scoreboard and 15-4 in shots.
“We see a lot of our offense comes from the back end with Shea getting 20 goals,” said head coach Barry Trotz on the offensive output in Thursday’s game. “The forwards are playing with a little bit more confidence with our defense being very active, especially in the first period. I think it’s a testament to the way we play.”
To start the second period, the Sabres decided for a change in net, sending Nathan Lieuwen in to relieve Matt Hackett. If anything, Buffalo came out with a bit of renewed energy, quickly getting their first goal of the game as Rasmus Ristolainen slapped the puck in behind Carter Hutton at 2:06.
It only took about four minutes for the Predators to answer the goal from the Sabres and wipe away any momentum Buffalo may have been gaining. Shea Weber took the feed from Roman Josi, skated toward the net and fired it in from the top of the face off circle at 6:19. The goal gave Weber 20 for year.
The Sabres were given a chance to take the lead back down to three when they were put on the power play. Mike Fisher tripped Matt D’Agostini at 12:37 and headed to the box for two minutes. Luckily for the Predators, Fisher sat for the entire two minutes.
It then slowed down for the rest of the second period and Nashville went into the locker room leading 5-1.
At 5:20 of the third period, Colin Wilson took an interference penalty while the Predators were on the attack. The Nashville penalty killers performed well and didn’t allow any quality scoring chances to the Sabres, killing it off.
Midway through the third period at the 10:39 mark, Buffalo actually took the lead in shots, 27-26, but they were still down 5-1 where it mattered. Tyler Ennis had a chance to score on a net left completely empty by Carter Hutton, but missed extremely high.
To put more salt in the wound, with just 40 seconds left in regulation, Eric Nystrom flipped the puck toward the net after receiving the puck from Rich Clune to tally his 14th of the season. The assist from Clune also gave him two points for the night.
“We just need to do the same thing we did tonight,” said Victor Bartley on what needs to happen to win Friday night. “I thought we did a great job of shutting things down in the third period and really closing the game out.”
Thursday’s victory was important to the players and the fans, as it was the first win at home since February 27th. Below, Predators Captain Shea Weber speaks about the game.
Barry Trotz’s post game press conference is below:
*All photos courtesy of Allyson Hall*