On the eve of Halloween, the Nashville Predators exorcised a demon or two.
After a game against the Edmonton Oilers in which the only goal scorer was Filip Forsberg, the Predators found goals from some previously snakebitten sources en route to a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
Ryan Hartman notched a pair of goals 57 seconds apart in the second period on two assists from Kevin Fiala, and Calle Jarnkrok scored his second of the season to seal the deal in the third period.
Fiala, who had just one goal and two assists coming into the game, has been in need of a pick-me-up and was shifted down to the third line with Hartman and Nick Bonino. Even though he didn’t score, getting a nifty couple of assists might be just what the Witch Doctor ordered.
“I would love to score, but I’ll take those two assists,” Fiala said. “The most important thing is that we won. We’ve been winning, so that’s the most important thing.”
These were no cupcake assists from Fiala either. On Hartman’s first goal, Fiala left him a nifty pass in the middle and let the forward take care of the rest as he deked towards the net. 57 seconds later, Fiala settled down a long clearance by P.K. Subban and backhanded a feed through a triangle of three Golden Knights defenders to Hartman’s stick.
Those types of contributions can go a long way even if the goals aren’t necessarily there.
“Kevin’s playing well,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s getting looks. He hit the post last game. There’s things that he’s doing that are helping our team be a good offensive team. Tonight was a perfect example. He made great plays in order to set up those goals, so it’s not necessarily about scoring the goal. It’s about contributing. He was good, he had a heavy hand in it.”
Even if players on other lines didn’t find the scoresheet, they still found ways to make contributions on both sides of the ice. In two of the three periods, the Golden Knights owned the majority of the shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick. However, Vegas was limited to just five high-danger scoring chances all game long.
That was thanks to defensive efforts from lots of different players on the ice. In a complete team win, those types of contributions can go a long way.
“Obviously, you want to be playing well defensively, not being a liability,” forward Kyle Turris said. “You just want to be creating. Even if you’re not scoring or getting points, you want to be creating those opportunities. When you do that, eventually they’re going to go in.”
While there might not be much glory or notoriety in having a stout defensive night, it’s still noteworthy. Take Colton Sissons for example. His Corsi For rating (ratio of shot attempts for vs. against) was the lowest on the team on Tuesday, yet he played an integral role in the victory with some stout penalty killing. He even made a fantastic play on a blocked shot on the penalty kill and turned it into a breakaway attempt that was stopped at the last moment.
Some players are there to score goals. Others are there to do the dirty work. Sissons isn’t ashamed to be one of the latter players.
“Obviously, everyone has different roles on this team and takes a lot of pride in that,” Sissons said. “For myself, I expect myself to score some goals and chip in offensively. But, I feel I do some other things to help us win hockey games too.”
Even if every line didn’t contribute offensively, every line played a role in the win. As opposed to last year, the lines have been tinkered with quite a bit early on this season in order to maximize the effort from the entire team. On a team with so much depth, the cost of tinkering with lines is minimal.
For someone like Fiala, who has joined the line with Hartman and Bonino recently, it’s like he never missed a beat.
“Everybody on our team is a great player, great guys, easy to play with,” he said. “I’m happy on such a team like this. Doesn’t really matter who you play with.”
The Predators hit the road this Thursday to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.