Last season, the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs by three points and only amassed 88 points in 82 games. This season, it’s a completely different story, as Nashville has 89 points in only 61 games. With their 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, the Predators now hold a nine point lead over St. Louis for the Central Division.
“We’re not looking to stop at that point total,” said Shea Weber. “All year we’ve been striving to get to first, and now we’re trying to stay in first. We’re taking a lot of pride in where we are and the position we’re in. It’s going to be tough down the final stretch here.”
After Colorado scored at just 3:57 of the first period, Calle Jarnkrok quickly tied the game just 15 seconds later. Following the tying goal, it was total domination by the Predators.
“That was a great game from us,” said Roman Josi. “We played really well for 60 minutes and created a lot of chances, and we were able to put the puck in the net.”
Along with dominating play in the offensive zone, Nashville limited opportunities for the Avalanche in the defensive zone. Through two periods, Colorado only had eight shots on net.
“We controlled most of the play and had the puck a lot,” said Josi. “Our forwards did a great job forechecking and putting their defense under pressure. That’s why we had so much zone time and created a lot of chances in the offensive zone. I think we just tried to play in their zone and control the play. We did a good job of that and created a lot of chances. That was our plan.”
At 13:01, with the game still tied at one, Josi took a hit in the defensive zone from Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. The entire team took objection to the hit, but Weber was the first to arrive on the scene.
“I don’t know, it was just a reaction,” said Weber. “Josi got killed again. I just wanted to help him out. In between periods, even Nystrom said it was like a race to get to him. He said he was coming too. I’ll obviously stick up for my teammates at any point, but hopefully I don’t have to sit for half a game, that’s what it felt like at least.”
With Weber sitting in the box for 17 minutes for fighting, an instigator penalty and a misconduct, the team had to step up and fill a major void. For Josi however, he is thankful to have a defensive partner like Weber on the ice with him
“That was awesome,” said Josi. “Shea is our leader. He leads off the ice, he leads on the ice, in every aspect. You couldn’t ask for a better captain than him. As a partner, it’s awesome to know he always has your back. It was a great response from him.”
It seemed as if it was magic that soon after Weber finally exited the penalty box, that Josi scored his 11th of the season. The goal wasn’t a fluke, but in a matter of perfect timing with traffic in front of the net, Varlamov couldn’t see it coming.
“Fisher skated in front of me and I just tried to get it to the net,” said Josi. “He (Varlamov) didn’t see it or he probably would have saved that one.”
In a rare event halfway through the third period, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy pulled back up goaltender Reto Berra with his team on the power play. While in the defensive zone, Eric Nystrom battled for the puck near the board, gained possession and then lifted it high towards the other end, and notched a short-handed, empty net goal. It’s not too often an empty net goal is scored at 8:28 of the third.
“It was awesome because I think he’s had a couple chances this year scoring on the empty net,” said Josi, who was on the ice for the goal. “We were on the penalty kill, so might as well go for it. He shot it pretty well and it went right in the middle of the net.”
With their dominating performance, it was one of the more complete games they’ve had lately. Nashville won in almost every major statistical category:
- 41 shots for, 20 shots against
- 37 of 63 in face-offs, good for 60%
- 12 blocked shots for, 11 against
- 67 total shot attempts, 40 shot attempts against
“It’s been good, especially lately we’ve had some ups and downs,” said Weber. “It was a good effort, especially against a team we knew was going to come with their best because they’re kind of on their last leg trying to make the playoffs. We knew we were going to get their best, and I think we responded and did a good job.”
Up next for the Predators are the Minnesota Wild. While the Wild lost 2-1 against Edmonton on Tuesday night, they are still 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Nashville will most likely face Devan Dubnyk, who spent a brief amount of time with the Predators last season.
View Peter Laviolette’s post game press conference:
Photo credit: Lauren Gallas