The Nashville Predators have been one for the dramatic in their past two outings. Two games, two shootouts, two victories. While not for the faint of heart, Tuesday night’s victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning showed what head coach Peter Laviolette called “resiliency.”
After allowing the Lightning to take a 2-1 lead in the second period, Nashville battled back three times to tie the game. In two instances, it was James Neal that evened the score. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Neal tied the game at four, which ended up forcing overtime and the eventual win in the shootout. With so much firepower on offense for both sides, it was a thrilling game and not an easy one for defenders.
“It was huge,” said Seth Jones on the victory. “We played a good team today. It was our second overtime win in a row, so we’re finding ways to win right now, which is good.”
With under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Predators did have a power play opportunity that generated multiple chances. Shea Weber and Seth Jones manned the points, and it was easy to see what the strategy was on this power play opportunity, set Weber up for a laser.
“We wanted to get as many pucks to net as we can with quick puck movement,” said Jones on the power play. “But sometimes you have to wait for a good opportunity. I sifted one over to Weber for a shot. It could have been a little harder, but he hit it good and Smith got a nice second opportunity. We had good movement, I thought. We just didn’t get one tonight even though we had a lot of attempts and shots on net.”
Going into three-on-three overtime for the second straight game presented Nashville fans with some more drama. Facing a team as skilled as the Lightning could have made for some scary moments with that much open ice, but the Predators defended it well. They even had several opportunities themselves.
“I think when you have the puck in the zone, the defense is playing safe and not going to get beat one on one, so you have to create something,” said Jones. “There’s a lot of room out there that could spurn a breakaway. You just have to be careful, especially with a team like Tampa that has a lot of speed and skill. Their guys can fly.”
While most knew that defenseman Ryan Ellis would miss Tuesday’s game, it was unsure until closer to game time that Barret Jackman would also miss. This meant that Anthony Bitetto and Victor Bartley would see their first game action of the season. The two skated as a pair with Jones moving up to skate with Mattias Ekholm. Defensive minutes were evenly spread among the top four with Jones seeing 24:31, Weber at 24:40, Josi with 26:21 and Ekholm at 22:46.
“I thought we did a good job tonight and played great defensively,” said Jones. “Two key guys, special teams guys on both the power play and penalty kill, were out. I thought Victor and Tony did a great job stepping in tonight.”
It may be early, but six games in, Nashville is tied at the top of the Western Conference with 10 points. Every victory counts and getting another one at home against the Stanley Cup runner up is a huge victory in building confidence for the tough schedule ahead.
“It was fantastic and awesome,” said Jones on the fans Tuesday night. “It’s what we expect every game and they bring the fire for us. It’s been fantastic to listen to them.”
The Predators will be back in action at home on Thursday night as the take on the Anaheim Ducks, who are surprisingly 1-3-1 to start the season.
Post game with Shea Weber:
Post game with Pekka Rinne:
Post game with Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough