In front of another sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena – the 19th of the year – the Nashville Predators improved to 6-1-0 all-time on Valentine’s Day by beating the visiting New Jersey Devils, 3-1.
Pekka Rinne made 21 saves while Devils netminder Corey Schneider single-handedly kept his team in the game by steering away 35 despite the loss.
Rinne is now a league best 33-7-2 with a league best 1.97 goals-against average.
In a first period that ended with the Predators leading 20-3 in shots, Schneider only allowed a single goal. Matt Cullen broke his 18-game goalless drought by coming out from behind the net and putting it far side into the twine for the 1-0 lead.
“It’s always nice to get one,” Cullen said. “But more importantly to get a win. I thought it was a really good effort and I thought we played a really solid game from start to finish.”
In the second stanza, Nashville continued to outplay New Jersey but they got into penalty trouble, taking two consecutive trips to the penalty box for clearing the puck over the glass. On the second one, Steve Bernier tied the game with his 10th of the year.
“New Jersey got a lot better in the second period and third period,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “They really cranked it up in the second but I like the way we stuck with it.”
In the closing minutes, Nashville finally got the eventual game-winner. Mike Ribeiro sent a cross-ice pass to Victor Bartley at the backdoor. Bartley then sent a cross-crease pass to Colin Wilson who put it in the back of the net and made it 2-1.
Before was all said and done, Craig Smith added his 15th of the season to round out the scoring.
Coming into the night, Laviolette changed the line combinations a bit, including reuniting Filip Forsberg with fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok. Many wondered why Laviolette would move his leading scorer off the top line and put him on the third line with Jarnkrok.
“It was more just to shake it up and try different linemates and get a different view,” Laviolette said. “We were playing hard defensively from the previous four games to tonight but we weren’t on the attack like we were tonight. That’s really who we are and how we got this point in the season. I thought it was our best 60 in a long time.”
One of those “different views” was Jarnkrok and Forsberg. After being acquired at the trade deadline last season, Jarnkrok joined the Milwaukee Admirals and rejuvenated Forsberg’s AHL season. In the six regular season games he skated alongside Jarnkrok, Forsberg registered nine points. For comparison, he was a minus-3 with zero points in the seven games prior to the trade.
“Our whole line played a pretty good game,” Jarnkrok said of the chemistry. “We just couldn’t find the net I guess.”
New line combinations or not, Nashville will turn its attention to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The Sharks are currently second in the Pacific Division standings and will come in fresh off a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:16 remaining in regulation):
1. Cory Schneider (NJ)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Matt Cullen (NSH)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Colin Wilson (NSH)
2. Matt Cullen (NSH)
3. Corey Schneider (NJ)
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com