On Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators extended their winning streak to three games with a 3-2 victory in overtime. Lately, the path to winning hasn’t come easy for the Predators, but getting the two points is all that matters. After giving up a two-goal lead, James Neal scored the game-winner with only 33 seconds left in overtime.
“Neal scores big goals,” said forward Taylor Beck. “I don’t think any of us were surprised. He shot five hole and he can find that opening a lot.”
Having the game forced to over time was certainly frustrating for the team, but it wasn’t something new to them. Even with their backs against the wall, Nashville has found ways to win games, even when blowing leads.
“I think we took a step back and didn’t come out like we wanted to,” said Beck on the third period. “They’re a really skilled team and they’re going to make plays. They were fortunate enough to cash in on a couple.”
During each shift Tuesday night, Taylor Beck, and his line mates Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom, were facing tough competition in Steven Stamkos. The line was able to shut down Stamkos and even generate some offense.
“It was a big game,” said Beck. “We were playing against Stamkos for most of it. We wanted to make sure we were shutting down their line and that’s getting on their defense in their end. They can’t do much offensively from their own end. That was key for our line.”
The persistence of the fourth line created a tremendous chance mid way through the second period. Gaustad shot the puck in on Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up the rebound right to Beck. Beck then buried it for his fifth of the year.
“Nystrom made a great pass over to Gaustad,” said Beck on how the play developed. “I was fortunate enough to stop in front and it landed right on my stick. You’re not going to find many easier ones than those.”
The entire game flowed like a true goaltender battle. Save after save between Vasilevskiy and Rinne made for an entertaining bout. There were multiple times when Vasilevskiy stoned the Predators and robbed them of goals.
“He’s a great goalie,” said Beck on Vasilevskiy. “I didn’t know much about him before the game, but his numbers have been great and he made a gigantic save in the first period against Ribeiro. That’s a highlight-of-the-night kind save…actually, Pekka’s was a highlight of the night. He’s a great goalie and we wanted to get a lot of traffic in front of him. We were fortunate enough to come up with the win.”
Even with the three-game winning streak, the team doesn’t feel like they’re still playing their best hockey. That should strike fear into the heart of opponents. The Predators currently have a three-point lead on Anaheim with a game in hand.
“I don’t know if we’re playing at the absolute top of our game five on five, but we’re finding ways to win games,” said Beck. “That’s what good teams do. We’re finding a way to keep at the top of the standings and we’re playing well.”
A team is always a work in progress. Up next for Nashville are the Winnipeg Jets, who are currently 12 points back of the Predators, but playing solid hockey.
“Maybe we can touch up a couple of things,” said Beck on what the team can continue to improve on going into the next game. “I think we have to get back to playing five on five down in the zone, getting the cycle going and getting more traffic in front of the goalie. I think that’s what made us really successful at the start of the season.”
After three straight games against the Eastern Conference, it’ll be a tough, divisional battle on Thursday against the Jets. With Nashville’s record at home being 22-3-1, it will be a tough test for Winnipeg.
View Peter Laviolette’s post game press conference:
Photo credit: Kristen Jerkins