Moments after Johansen was named the first star of the Predators 4-2 win over the Ducks, the 6-foot-3 center drove the point home in his post-game interview with Kara Hammer.
“I love beating those guys. How about you?” Johansen asked the crowd with a smile stretching from ear to ear.
The 25-year-old Vancouver native tallied a goal, an assist and a fight – a Gordie Howe hat trick – against the Ducks. Johansen dropped the gloves in the second period with his Anaheim counterpart, Ryan Kesler.
“He can take care of himself,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “He had a great game. What did he have; a fight, a goal, an assist? That’s old school.”
“He’s been playing great,” forward Craig Smith added. “He’s been a big, hard shot here. Tonight, he stepped it up and played a big role against a really good line. I thought he dealt with it great. The skill and the toughness that he brings to the game is huge.”
Kesler has a propensity for getting under opposing player’s skin. He and Johansen have a disdain for one another that dates back to the Western Conference Final last year. Kelser played with, what some would say, over-the-top physicality – leading to Johansen delivering the “loser” quote heard round the world.
“This is a real special game for (Johansen), we all know the history that’s been going on,” forward Filip Forsberg said. “He just keeps showing everyone how good he is.”
“He’s got to go against the big guys on the other team and he knew tonight was going to be a spirited game, a physical game,” Laviolette said. “I thought he did an excellent job.”
But when it comes to playing Anaheim, Johansen and the Preds just rise to another level. Nashville is 3-0 all-time in playoff series against them and swept the regular-season series this year. In doing so, they also extended their franchise-record win streak to 10 games.
“It’s a great team over there; expect to see them in the playoffs again for sure,” Johansen added. “It was nice to get the advantage on them again tonight and keep our streak going.”
“Everything’s great about this streak. We’re focusing on the process and doing what we need to do to be ready to come playoff time, so we’re just taking it day by day and looking at our team game and what we always can be improving on. These wins are obviously nice as they keep coming along.”
“We’re working hard every game,” Laviolette said. “Whoever we put in there, whatever the lineup is, whatever the lines are, they roll over the boards and they work hard. It’s been really good.”