The Nashville Predators have been outplaying their opponents at almost every turn over the past few weeks but have rarely been rewarded with goals, let alone wins.
Tuesday, against the Arizona Coyotes, it finally paid off.
In front of 15,091 at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds offense finally broke through late in the game and beat their Western Conference rival 5-2.
Nashville finished the game with 41 shots on goal and 11 more that were blocked.
“It was a real solid 60 [minutes],” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t get frustrated. We didn’t start taking penalties. We just kept our eye on the ball for 60 minutes.”
The opening period saw an all out blitz by the Predators. They went into the dressing room with 13 shots on Mike Smith, three pucks off posts and countless scoring chances. Unfortunately for them, however, it was same song, different verse as their opponent was in the lead.
Seth Jones was whistled for interference late in the period and, within seconds of the puck dropping, Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent a puck through traffic and past Rinne to open the scoring. Just as it had been in most of their previous six games, the Predators found themselves down despite thoroughly outplaying their opponent.
“The feeling in the room was a good feeling despite being down 1-0,” Mike Ribeiro said. “We felt like we had a lot left. I’d rather be playing the way we were playing and be down 1-0 then not playing the way we were playing and still be down 1-0.”
Midway through the contest, Calle Jarnkrok had a sweet redirection on a Shea Weber shot that finally got through Smith. Nashville’s 24th shot resulted in their first goal, tying the game.
Before the period would end, however, Arizona would get another. Kyle Chipchura netted his third of the year while crashing the net. In the congestion, the puck found its way past Rinne to make it 2-1, Coyotes.
“Going into the third period, we were sitting in the room saying ‘We deserve better,’” Eric Nystrom said on the Post-Game Show. “Everybody stepped up and had a strong third period. You’ve got to bear down around the front of the net. It’s not easy to get there and we finally did that and we won a hockey game.”
“Today we felt like we were playing better but we were still losing 2-1 after two periods,” Ribeiro said. “It was important for us to come out in the third and play hard and play well. I think we did that.”
They certainly did. Ribeiro notched his third of the season, Filip Forsberg tallied twice after that and then James Neal added the empty netter to give the Preds the decisive 5-2 victory.
Without question, the past few weeks have been tough on Nashville. They went a lackluster 5-6-2 during the month of November after going 7-1-2 and not giving up a single first period goal in October. A stark contrast to be sure and quite frustrating as well. But now, December has a completely different outlook.
“What’s in the past is in the past,” Ribeiro said. “You need to be confident and really believe you can do it. That was one of our strength’s last year, we believed no matter what we could come back. That was a good example for us.”
“There’s a lot of stuff we can take from this game tonight that we can carry forward,” Nystrom said. “There have been some games that we should’ve won where we’ve played hard. There’s not many games where we lose because of lack of effort. When you’re down, it’s a character test. It’s to see how much confidence you can exude even when you’re feeling down in the dumps. You’ve got to find a way.”
Next up for Nashville is the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at 501 Broadway. If they can win, it will be their first win streak since November 14-17.
Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.
PHOTO CREDIT: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images