RECAP: Preds get some separation in standings, beat Lightning

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
RECAP: Preds get some separation in standings, beat Lightning

It was the best of the West against the best of the East.

In front of 16,362 at Bridgestone Arena, James Neal scored the overtime winner to give the Nashville Predators the 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and improve to 36-12-6 on the year.

The win also gives Nashville a 22-3-1 record at home, tops in the entire NHL.

There may have been five goals scored but it was truly a goaltending clinic in Music City on Tuesday night. Pekka Rinne amassed 30 saves in the victory while Andrei Vasilevskiy kept his team in the game at every turn, making 26 stops in the loss.

“You knew going into it, you were going to get great efforts out of both goaltenders,” Predators rookie defenseman Anthony Bitetto said. “Playing in front of Pekka is special. He actually calms you down out there. He talks to you and his compete level is beyond. But, that’s why he’s the world’s best.”

After a hard fought but non-productive first frame, Seth Jones and Taylor Beck made the score 2-0 headed into the second intermission. Tampa responded in the final period, however, with goals from Brett Connolly and Nikita Kucherov to force overtime.

“It’s nice that we came back but I think we have to start believing that we’re one of the better teams in the League,” Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos said. “Maybe then we won’t be satisfied with one point.”

“We knew they were going to come back and make a push,” Bitetto said. “They did and, unfortunately, we gave up two goals that we wish we had back. But they’re in first place on that side for a reason.”

For the time being, Nashville has a three-point cushion as the number one team in the West and the NHL as a whole.

“Our guys read the standings and know where everyone is at in the League,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette admitted. “I think you’re always looking at the races and wildcard spots. We’ve talked about our place for a long time. I think our guys have done a good job of keeping their eye on the ball and staying focused.”

Things don’t get much easier for Predators. Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, are in town on Thursday. The Jets and their 66 points would be second in the Pacific but, alas, they’re in the Central. Therefore, they currently hold the top wild card spot instead.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:31 remaining in regulation):
1. Seth Jones (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. James Neal (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com

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