Up until the 4:07 mark of the second period, most Predators fans had most likely tuned their minds out of Tuesday night’s game thinking a tremendous loss was coming. All it took was a goal by James Neal to spark the Nashville offense into scoring six straight goals to overcome a 3-0 deficit en route to a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
It wasn’t that the Predators started off poorly in the first period, but a bad bounce gave the Blues the lead.
“They had a good bounce on the first goal,” said Mike Fisher, who scored two goals in the game. “They created chances and we left a few holes. We were on the [penalty kill] for the second goal but after that, we felt like we were getting our chances. We didn’t panic and we got rolling from there.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette liked the team’s play in the first period, but credited Neal’s goal as being the spark.
“I actually thought we started really well,” said Laviolette. “The first eight minutes, our guys had the right mindset and were playing the right way. A really unfortunate bounce – from there, we regressed a little bit. I think it just took the energy. I think sometimes that happens when you’re dead set on playing the game the one way and something happens. We couldn’t get a hold of the game at that point. They took it to us a little bit from that point on. I think when it swung back the other way – and it was clearly evident – was James Neal’s goal just to get us on the board and get us going in the right direction. From that point, I thought our guys did an excellent job of playing the way we want to play.”
Every forward that needs to be finding the back of the net for Nashville contributed to the victory. Filip Forsberg notched his third of the season. Ryan Johansen netted his sixth, and James Neal tallied his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
“They were really good,” said Laviolette on Forsberg, Johansen and Neal playing together. “We all got going, but you’re right. They got going, and they were generating a lot. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. We got zone starts that started in our favor. We’re in the offensive zone for face-offs more – that’s a big thing. If you’re in the offensive zone already, you can start generating. If you’re in the defensive zone, you have to figure out how to get through two zones just to get to the O-zone. They started getting the right zone starts and being put in the right spots, and when they did they were able to capitalize on it.
While it’s dangerous to play from three goals down, this is the type of game that can spark something special in teams. It was easy to see that when Nashville plays with the confidence they had in the second and third period, they can dominate puck possession and make other teams look silly.
“I think that was a great effort being down like that and coming back,” said Mike Fisher. “We played really good in the second and third period against a great team too – a division rival. That was a big game.”
Another tremendous part of the victory is that the Predators continue to play stellar hockey at home. The team improved to 10-2-2 inside the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena. St. Louis, on the other hand, fell to 4-9-1 on the road. The players and coaches continue to say how much they feed off the energy of the home crowd.
“It felt like a playoff game,” said Ryan Johansen. “During a couple of TV timeouts there I felt like I needed some earplugs because my ears were getting sore. That’s a lot of fun, that’s what you enjoy so much about playing in the NHL is the atmosphere and coming into your home building and working for your fans. They were definitely a big part of it tonight.”
“It was great to get back here,” said Peter Laviolette on the home crowd. “You could tell, not only for us, but even our fans, when Neal’s goal went in it just brought a whole lot of energy into the building. They really got going. That gets us going as well.”
The Nashville Predators are back home on Thursday night against another division rival, the Minnesota Wild, who have crept into second in the division. The Wild will be coming into Nashville as winners of five straight, with their most recent win being a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.