Home just hasn’t been the same for the Nashville Predators this season as they came into Thursday night’s game against Boston with a 14-10-4 record at Bridgestone Arena. But, after a dominating first period, the Predators were able to improve that record to 15-10-4 at home with a solid 2-0 victory.
Nashville had a rare two-day break between weekday games with their last time out being a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas. The break seemed to do the team well as they came out firing on all cylinders in the first period. Craig Smith notched his 13th of the season just 2:51 into the game to put Nashville ahead for good. The Predators continued to roll their lines, dominated puck possession, tiring the Boston defense and had stellar play in net.
“It was great to see a good response at home,” said Ryan Johansen. “That’s been the emphasis these last couple days is that we need to start playing our game here at home and execute for 60 minutes. From start to finish, [Pekka] was the man tonight, as he usually is. The boys played a solid game. We had a great first period, got off to a good start and just controlled it from there.”
Of course the game plan every night is to come out and dominate the first period. Only one team is usually able to do that each night. Luckily for Nashville, they did just that, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.
“That’s always the game plan; have a good forecheck and execute, get pucks to the net and get there,” said Johansen. “You look at those goals, that’s what it was. Credit to that line in having a great start to the hockey game, and getting our boys going.”
Especially at this point in the season, every point is important. When the opponent is from the other conference, it’s an even bigger opportunity to gain more ground on divisional and conference rivals without the risk of losing as much ground on them. The two points earned against the Bruins put Nashville back into a tie with Colorado and slots them in the first Wild Card spot.
If Nashville can keep seeing the Pekka Rinne they did on Thursday night, along with solid play from Carter Hutton, it will surely help in the race to the playoffs. As their goaltending goes, the Predators go. Rinne, who earned his 39th career shutout in the victory, was stellar in net all night, earning him the first star of the game, and he certainly seemed rejuvenated after sitting the previous two games.
“He’s the man,” said Johansen on Rinne. “A goalie like that, a veteran goalie, who has done it for so long, we’re all human here. If anybody is not human, it’s him. He’s unbelievable. A goalie of his stature bounces back. Every single player in this league goes through a couple games where they don’t like it and a puck takes weird bounces, but he’s the man and he’s our guy here.”
Overall, Nashville had a solid performance against the then-division-leading Dallas Stars on Monday, but came up short in overtime. Thursday night’s victory could help be a momentum builder for a team that desperately needs consistency, especially at home.
“It’s huge, ya know,” said Johansen on how the win could keep the team rolling. “We’ll come in tomorrow, watch some stuff and learn from it. We’ll see the good things we did out there and just go out there and execute again on Saturday.”
The Predators face the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in Nashville. Los Angeles leads the Pacific Division, but have been very wishy washy of late, posting a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games. It’ll be a great opportunity for the Predators to get another home win before hitting the road for three straight games.
Post game with Pekka Rinne, Filip Forsberg & Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough