The up and down ways of the season for the Nashville Predators continued on Monday night against the New York Rangers. In their previous match-up this season in November, New York blanked the Predators 3-0. Monday night was a different story as Nashville’s offense exploded for a three-goal third period en route to a 5-3 win over a good, but struggling Rangers team. Nashville has now won three out of their last four and are 5-4-1 in their last 10.
It seems to be that the right players are heating up for the Nashville Predators. Players that should be scoring goals and leading by example offensively are contributing more consistently now. Against New York, Filip Forsberg opened the scoring late in the first period and James Neals notched two goals. Those are two players that are vital to Nashville’s success. Roman Josi is also continuing to show what an asset he is to his squad as he tallied two assists on the night, bringing his season point total to 28. Josi also lead all skaters with six shots on goal.
Before the game turned into a scoring frenzy, a goal by Filip Forsberg was overturned following a challenge by Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. The goal was overturned because the officials deemed that Craig Smith interfered with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. While the crowd in Bridgestone Arena let the referees know their displeasure with the decision, the Predators answered that call with three goals in four minutes.
“I think we came out with the attitude that no matter what happened, we were going to win the game,” said Colin Wilson, who had an assist. “That goal was overturned and we just kept going. It’s nice to see that from our team.”
A strong first period is not something new this season. It’s happened multiple times and Nashville hasn’t been able to finish. Monday night, the Predators played a full 60 minutes, aside from letting in a pair near the end to make it interesting.
“We’ve realized that we’ve come out hard in the first periods and have to play a full 60 minute-game and to play consistent,” said Wilson. “That was the message. It’s a message that’s been in our heads all year. Again, it’s good to see us execute it.”
During much of the tilt, the Predators played a smart game. They made good decisions with the puck and made the right passes that led to goals. One such play involved Wilson. In the second period as Wilson entered the zone, he had an opportunity to shoot the puck as he neared the slot, but decided to pass it to Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro found James Neal, who sniped it for the second Nashville goal of the game.
“I couldn’t necessarily see behind me,” said Wilson. “I saw that we had numbers in the play. I came across, got it to Ribeiro, and he’s usually good with time, so it worked out.”
Scoring five goals on any goaltender is a feat in today’s NHL, where there are calls for changes to be made to increase scoring. Notching five against an all-world goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist and chasing him out of the crease is another. It was a night of high-quality shots for the Predators, who scored their five goals on 35 shots.
“It’s always good to do that against any team,” said Wilson. “They’re a great team with great goaltending. To be able to play a game where you get them to pull their goalie, it speaks to the way we were playing.”
It was a hectic locker room following the game as Nashville plays in St. Louis on Tuesday night. Bags were packed in a hurry and players had less than 45 minutes to pack, change and get to the plane. Colin Wilson left with a simple note on the key to winning against the Blues on this back-to-back:
“Get some sleep and win the same way.”
Mike Fisher’s return
Monday night was Mike Fisher’s first game after missing 11 games with a lower body injury. Here’s what head coach Peter Laviolette had to say about his return.
“He was really good. We played him in a lot of different situations and rolled the bench. We got a lot of minutes out of everyone tonight but Mike looked really good. It’s nice to have him back in there. He really provides a steadiness to our lineup, a good balance and take on a lot of different roles.”
Post game video with Filip Forsberg and Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough