The Nashville Predators used three goals from their shut down line to power their way past the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in Nashville. David Legwand, Jerred Smithson, and Joel Ward all tallied along with Steve Sullivan as the Predators won for the seventh time in their last nine games.
The Predators tallied twice on the power play, as Steve Sullivan scored on a five on three man advantage in the first period. Joel Ward redirected a Ryan Suter slapshot in the second period for his third goal of the season and the third of the game. The anemic Predator power play has started to show some signs of life, and for the game was two for four with the advantage. This was the first time this season that the Sharks have given up two power play goals in a game.
The Predators used a strong second period to move the margin to 4-1 before Joe Thornton scored with :41 to go to cut the margin to 4-2. Jerred Smithson was the beneficiary of a nice pass from David Legwand and finished a two on one break to make the score 2-1. Later in the period, Ward was camped in front of the net and got the deflection on Suter's shot that put the Preds up 3-1. Ward later won a battle in the corner and fed the puck to Legwand in the face off circle, who one-timed a bullet past Greiss for a 4-1 Predators advantage.
In the third period, the Predators held the Sharks off the board until :52 remained, when Patrick Marleau scored with Greiss pulled for the extra attacker. Nashville was able to control the puck and win a key face off with three seconds to go to clinch the victory. This victory was particularly satisfying as the Preds had lost a week ago in San Jose by the same score after essentially giving the game away in the final minutes.
This victory against the best team in the Western Conference is indicative of the potential of the Predators when they play within their system. The foundation of that system is solid goal tending, and Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net and is displaying the confidence and sound positional hockey that made him an elite goaltender last season. The defense was generally effective in limiting chances. San Jose scored on a short handed deflection by Scotty Nichol, a former Predator (we miss ya, Scooter); Thornton's goal occurred when he beat the forward that should have been back checking; and Marleau's goal came with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker. While not flashy, the forwards shot the puck and forechecked aggressively and this led to several quality scoring opportunities.
It is good to see Steve Sullivan rounding in to shape. Sully scored his third goal in the last two games and is starting to show some of the scoring touch that makes him dangerous on the ice.
David Legwand has started to show some offensive spark. Thanks, David. We desperately need that from you. I have been very critical of Legwand and his play to date. Rightfully so. All will be forgiven between you, me, and the Predator fans if you start playing like you did last night.
After starting the season 3-6-1, and looking pretty miserable in some of those losses, this team now sits at 10-8-1 and is playing some very solid hockey. The players, many of them new faces at the start of the season, are starting to trust one another and trust the system. The results have been manifested in solid hockey and more wins.
The schedule favors the Predators over the next few weeks as there a numerous home games. Time now to bring this kind of effort every night. Time now to make up some ground in the division. Time now to play Predator hockey.