On January 20th, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Nashville Predators in overtime while on the power play. Tuesday night, the Predators returned the favor in the same fashion, winning 3-2 off a power play goal from Filip Forsberg. With the win, Nashville moved up to 98 points, one point behind St. Louis for the Central Division lead. In earning a point in the contest, Montreal moved into sole possession of first overall in the league and became the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season. For the Predators, the win is another confidence booster for a club that 4-5-1 in their previous 10 games.
“It’s a huge win for us, especially after being down after the second period,” said Roman Josi. “Coming back and winning the game, it’s huge. They’re a great team, one of the best in the league. They play really well defensively and obviously Price is a great goaltender, so it’s tough to get a goal on them.”
Scoring three goals on Carey Price is a major feat for Nashville as Price is the leader of every major goaltending statistic in the NHL. Price carries a 1.88 goals against average and a save percentage of .937.
“It’s tough to score on him,” said Josi. “We got that lucky bounce and if you shoot a lot, sometimes it’s going to bounce your way. It did in the third.”
The bounce Josi speaks of was the tying goal from Ryan Ellis. From the point, Ellis lobbed the puck to the net, but before reaching the crease, it bounced and hopped in behind Price. During the slump, the team felt like that had played well, but bounce weren’t going their way.
“You just have to give the puck a chance to go in,” said Josi. “He just threw it there and we got a lucky bounce. We didn’t get much of those in the slump. If we work at it, we’re going to get those bounces.”
Another defenseman had fans, and social media alike, roaring. Mattias Ekholm first got the Predators on the board midway through the first period. In scoring the goal, Ekholm split the defense, fell and scored while on his knees.
“It was amazing,” said Josi on Ekholm’s goal before beginning to chuckle. “That was a great goal. First, he kind of chipped it for himself and then he fell and it was sick. We shouldn’t tell him too much, his head is probably a little higher now.”
One of Josi’s Swiss counterparts, Kevin Fiala, made his Nashville Predators debut Tuesday night. The 2014 first round pick (11th overall) had a strong game and his teammates noticed it.
“I thought he was great,” said Josi. “He made a lot of things happen. A couple of good chances for him. He made a great play on that three-on-one back door and just hopped over Fisher’s stick. It’s not easy if you’re that young. He came in at about 5:45pm with no warm up really and traveled all day.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette was also pleased in Fiala’s game.
“He was good,” said Laviolette. “Things happen when he is on the ice. He is a player that gets the puck on a stick. You saw some of the things he did off the rush and in the offensive zone play. The puck sticks to him a little bit and it is a good thing when you are an offensive player who is able to get to middle ice a couple times. For coming and jumping in to your first game and playing a top team in the league, I thought he had a really good debut.”
Before the team heads to Tampa Wednesday afternoon, the team will hold a practice at Centennial Sportsplex. One thing Nashville needs to continue to work on are defensive zone lapses. Top teams, like the Canadiens, will take advantage of any mistake made. It burned the Predators at least once Tuesday night.
“I thought the first goal was kind of a bad bounce for us,” said Josi. “It kind of bounced around and popped right there to the guy in the slot. The second one, we have to do a better job in front of the net. The guy was all by himself, so we have to look at that goal. We still have a lot of things to work on to get better.”
Nashville has eight games left on the regular season. Five of those games come against teams currently in the playoffs. To continue to make a run, they’ll have to have strong games to finish the season and build momentum into the playoffs.
View Peter Laviolette’s post game press conference:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough