A tremendous effort in the first 40 minutes by the Nashville Predators on Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings was the key to victory in their 5-2 win.
The Predators continue to heat up at the right time with all key players contributing as they moved to 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. The top two lines are continuing to put the puck in the net and the bottom two lines help take the pressure off the top six with their performance. Monday night’s victory saw a scoreless first period, but it wasn’t without opportunities as Nashville and Los Angeles combined for 21 shots on goal. Jonathan Quick was stellar in net through about the first 30 minutes of the game until the Predators finally solved him when James Neal popped one past him at 7:37, with the assist coming from Ryan Johansen.
“It’s a big part of our game emphasizing shot mentality and trying to get traffic and pucks to the net as much as we can, especially against what I think is one of the best goalies in the league,” said Johansen. “You need to do that or else you won’t be successful. We stuck to our game plan right from the start tonight. We played a good game against a good team over there. We’re happy with the result.”
In the game, Johansen notched three points (1G-2A), including an excellent tip in off a Shea Weber point shot midway through the third period to give the team back a two-goal lead and more breathing room to finish the game.
“All goalies are so good in this league,” said Johansen on why traffic to the net is important. “Great play by Weber and nice to see that one trickle through. All hockey games are a bunch of momentum swings when you really look at it.”
With only nine games left to go in the regular season, match-ups in the upcoming playoffs continue to be discussed. In what was a potential first-round match-up between the Predators and Kings, Nashville played to their strengths and picked apart Los Angeles. It was an extremely physical battle with the Kings recording 38 hits and the Predators with 29. Getting a win over the Pacific Division leader is definitely a confidence builder and something they can continue to build on as the season winds down.
“It’s very special, I think,” said Johansen on beating the Kings. “We have a lot of young bodies in this room, and I think when they go home tonight and look at the standings and the result tonight and say, ‘wow, we beat one of the best teams in the this league and a team that’s talked about a lot as a Stanley Cup contender.’ So we’ll definitely use it as confidence for our group in this room, and maybe being a playoff match-up, so very happy with the result.”
In the victory, it was also a night of milestones. Mike Fisher was honored for recently playing in his 1,000th game prior to the puck being dropped. Along with that, when Mike Fisher scored the second goal of the game that James Neal assisted on, Neal recorded his 400th career point in the NHL.
“He came and said to me that he was mad I didn’t get him the puck,” said Johansen who also assisted on Fisher’s goal with Neal. “I was getting him the puck on the ice, but I guess I didn’t get it after the whistle was gone. I guess I need to do a better job. But yeah, it’s incredible. You look at some of the names that have reached the 400-point mark and 200 goals as well for him, it’s really impressive. You see those numbers. He’s a huge reason I’ve had some success since I’ve been here with him being on my line. He’s a great power forward in this league and a huge part of this hockey club.”
With the victory, Nashville is again four points behind Chicago for third place in the Central Division. The Predators would currently match-up with the Kings as they are second in the conference. The Kings however, are only two points behind Dallas for the Western Conference lead, proving that in the last nine games of the season, anything can happen and playoff seeding could come down to the last regular season game: Nashville at Dallas.
Shea Weber, Filip Forsberg & Peter Laviolette post game:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough