After a 19-day break for the Olympics, the Nashville Predators returned to home ice to take on one of the surprise teams in the east, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The sellout crowd of 17,113 was able to witness the Predators rally back from a 2-0 first period deficit to defeat the Lightning 3-0.
Rust from the Olympic break seemed apparent for both teams as the first period began. Both teams seemed slow at the start, but it was the Lightning that would strike first. Martin St. Louis netted his 26th of the season when he put in a rebound shot from Ondrej Palat at 5:26.
Midway through the first, a questionable tripping call on Ryan Ellis put Tampa Bay on the power play and it was St. Louis that scored again for the Lightning. Skating around to the face-off dot to the left of goaltender Carter Hutton, St. Louis sent off a wrist shot that just dribbled by Hutton at 9:13.
Just a minute after allowing the power play goal, the Predators were put on the power play when J.T. Brown took a roughing penalty following a whistle in Nashville’s end. The Predators could not generate a quality scoring chance and the Lightning killed it off.
Late in the first, Nashville just couldn’t seem to get any consistency in the offensive zone. Most shots were coming from the outside or from low-percentage locations. Going into the end of the first, Craig Smith took a delay of game penalty, giving the Lightning another power play that would continue into the second period.
The Predators were able to kill off the penalty to begin the second period. During the penalty kill, Nashville disrupted shooting lanes and cleared the puck multiple times. It was certainly a strong effort on the kill.
Just 2:46 into the second, Viktor Stalberg turned the puck over while entering the offensive zone. Eric Brewer picked up the puck and Stalberg was clearly beat. As Brewer entered the zone, Stalberg tripped him up. Coincidentally, Brewer took a holding penalty and two minutes of four-on-four hockey would commence. Even with the extra skating space, neither team was able to capitalize on it and the penalties expired.
Near the midway point of the second, Rich Clune took exception to a hit laid on him at the Tampa Bay blue line by B.J. Crombeen. The two dropped the gloves for a spirited match near the glass, giving the fans some much-needed entertainment.
At 9:22, the Lightning took a too many on the ice penalty, sending the Predators to the power play for the second time in the game. During the power play, Ryan Ellis had an absolutely beautiful fake slap shot where he passed it across the ice to Matt Cullen, who roofed it over goaltender Ben Bishop. That goal would be Cullen’s sixth of the season.
Immediately following the Nashville goal, Tampa Bay took another penalty. This time, Vladislav Namestnikov was called for hooking at 12:44. Not long into the power play, Shea Weber dished the puck to Roman Josi, who fired a slap shot past Bishop for his ninth of the season. At this point in the game, the power play for the Predators from two for three and on fire.
“Hornqvist had a great screen, said Roman Josi about his goal. “The goalie didn’t see anything at all. I saw the opening up there and Weber made a great pass to me too. ”
“We had a four-minute span where we were playing pretty well then [Rich] Clune got into a little [fight] with one of their guys,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “We got some momentum off that and drew a penalty and scored a power play goal.”
Riding the momentum from the second period, Nashville continued to pile shots on to Ben Bishop. Just six minutes into the third period, the Predators had already tallied 24 shots compared to 14 for the Lightning.
With 9:51 left in the third, Paul Gaustad took a tripping penalty in the defensive zone, sending Tampa Bay to the power play for second time in the game. With 10 seconds left on the power play, the Lightning took a penalty when Ryan Malone went to the box for hooking.
Nearing the end of the resulting power play, Mike Fisher shot the puck at the net and Patric Hornqvist tapped in the rebound, making it the third power play goal for Nashville. Also adding an assist to that goal was captain Shea Weber. The goal also made three unanswered goals for the Predators and gave them a 3-2 lead.
“That’s how I have to play every single night to be effective,” said Patric Hornqvist on attacking the goal. “It felt good tonight and obviously it was nice to get that big two points. ”
At just under one minute remaining, Tampa Bay would pull Bishop, giving them the extra attacker. Then, with 26 seconds remaining, the Lightning took their timeout with a face-off coming in the Nashville zone. Unable to get set up in the offensive zone, Tampa Bay did not score the game-tying score and Nashville came out with the 3-2 victory.
“I thought we had a good first period, said Shea Weber. “We had a couple of tough bounces there and a slow start, but I thought we did good things in the first. We limited that team. ”
The second and third period showed a strong defensive effort out of the Predators. During that 40-minute span, Nashville only allowed Tampa Bay seven shots on net, completely shutting them down.
Post game thoughts from Barry Trotz: