In front of 17,315 at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 and kept pace with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division standings.
Pekka Rinne only made 26 saves but several were of the highlight variety. He received third star honors as a result and improved to 23-6-1 on the year.
“We were focused on what we had to do,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We knew it was a big game for us coming off the break and a chance to move up in the standings.”
In the opening 20 minutes, Filip Forsberg used a power play opportunity to open the scoring. Mike Fisher created a perfect screen in front of Ray Emery and Forsberg’s shot hit the twine, forcing the scoreboard to read 1-0.
“That’s what we talked about in our meetings,” Ryan Ellis said. “We need to start getting guys to the front of the net and, hopefully, a couple will go in. That’s exactly what happened.”
In the middle frame, the Flyers tied the game. Claude Giroux bagged his 12th of the season when he broke down the wing and roofed a shot over Rinne’s glove hand.
Nashville answered thanks to a lengthy 5-on-3 power play. With Matt Read and Giroux both serving minor penalties for high-sticking, the Predators capitalized with a goal by Fisher, his 4th of the year.
“We were trying a few different things and showing a few different things,” Fisher said. “Hopefully we can keep that going and it can open up other areas.”
While the official announcement of Fisher’s goal was still being made, Colin Wilson added another, making it 3-1.
“[James] Neal took the goalies eyes away completely,” Wilson said. “I just saw that open up for a split second and saw that glove side.”
For a team who has struggled on the power play this season, it was quite surprising to see them convert three times in one night.
“When you get a 5-on-3, you have to score on that,” Ellis said. “But to come back and score on the 5-on-4, that was huge. A two-goal lead coming two minutes after that power play was a big advantage for us.”
Wilson would add the empty netter to round out the scoring.
Tuesday’s loss in Boston did not sit well with the club and they rebounded with a 38-shot, three-power-play-goal effort on Saturday.
“With the time off, you never know how you’re going to respond,” Ellis said of the mandatory three-day Christmas break. “You might be tired, maybe you haven’t done much in the last couple days but it was a big effort. Everyone was pushing and making good plays and got us a big two points.”
The victory improved Nashville’s record to 23-9-2 (48 points) and continued their streak of not losing back-to-back games.
“We’re a prideful group,” Wilson said. “I’ve never been with a group that hates losing so much. I think when we lose one, we don’t want to lose again so we’re doing well [in that department].”
The Predators will head up to the Windy City on Monday to take on the Blackhawks before returning home to face the St. Louis Blues the very next night. Monday and Tuesday will go a long way in shaping the top of the Central Division as it’s the last time Nashville plays Chicago in the regular season and the last time they play St. Louis at home. The Blackhawks lead the Central with 50 points while the Blues have 45.
On Monday, the puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:16 remaining in regulation):
1. Filip Forsberg (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Roman Josi (NSH)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Filip Forsberg (NSH)
2. Roman Josi (NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com