Just 26 seconds into Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, the Nashville Predators found themselves down 1-0 and the thought of “here we go again” brushed over the Bridgestone Arena crowd.
“It was a tough break,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said. “A little bit of a redirect, just a tough bounce. They got a couple chances right after that as well, but Pekka made some big saves. As the game went on, we settled down even more and tightened up defensively.”
“It was a bad goal, you never want to start the game like that,” Preds goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It was the first shot, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve given up a rough goal. You just have to focus on making the next save and the things you can control. The guys responded really well.
“Watson scored a big goal and then it went on from there. All in all, I thought defensively we did a really good job; they didn’t have much of anything all night. We needed that win, and you could tell.”
Predators have struggled as of late, going 3-5 in their last eight games and surrendering the first goal in four of those games – all losses. However, Tuesday was a different story.
“We were disappointed in poor play on the road,” Defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “At times it was good, and at times it wasn’t. Tonight, we came in and simplified a lot of errors in our game, and the result was there. If we continue with that game plan, I think we’ll like the results.”
With a little over four minutes left in the opening period, Austin Watson redirected a Mattias Ekholm slapper into the net from the high slot, tying it 1-1. Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith added goals in the second and third period as Nashville finished off the 3-1 win.
“It was good for us to get back on the winning trend, and it’s always nice to come back home and play in front of our fans,” Watson said. “A really good group effort from our guys tonight.”
After giving up a goal on the first shot of the game, Rinne pitched a shutout, stopping all 25 shots the Senators threw at him over the course of the game. The win snaps a two-game skid for Nashville, giving the Preds their first win in over a week.
“We addressed a lot of things after the last road trip,” Rinne said. “I felt like tonight, we played with speed, got the pucks deep, turned a lot of pucks over and created chances. Our defense always plays a big role in our offense.”
Missing key players like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris and P.K. Subban, Nashville has had to adjust the way it approaches each game. Against Ottawa, the Preds got half of their shots from defensemen (18 of 36) and seven different players registered a point.
“We are missing some fire power, but as long as we stick to what we do well, we will play good and smart hockey,” Watson said. “I think we get ourselves in trouble when we turn the puck over, too. We talk about these clichés like getting line changes and getting pucks out deep, it really holds true for us right now.
“Guys get injured every year, it’s a part of the game but I think we are well-equipped to handle it.”