The Predators faced an unfamiliar foe in the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nashville Arena on Tuesday night. As the first period unfolded, the game looked eerily similar to the Detroit game on Saturday. Getting outworked on the boards, losing physical battles, and seeing the first period end with the visitors taking a 2-1 lead to the locker room. Not a good feeling about the game and the play of of the Predators.
Jerred Smithson had opened the scoring for the Predators as he gathered in a rebound of a David Legwand wrap around attempt and fired a shot past Lightning goalie Antero Nittymaki. Good start so far. However, momentum was about to change.
Steve Stamkos tied the game as he exhibited his blazing speed and beat Shea Weber down the ice on a break away. The puck rolled off his stick but slid past Predator goalie Pekka Rinne to tie the game at the 11:35 mark. The Lightning took a 2-1 lead on a power play when a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot that beat Rinne on the glove side. 2-1 to end the period, and the Predators definitely looked like a team that had played a game the night before. A sluggish first period and a deficit heading in to the intermission.
It would be interesting to know what Head Coach Barry Trotz said to the team in the locker room at the first intermission, because in the second period, the Predators exerted their will on the Lightning. Two goals in three minutes and the momentum had swung to the Predators. They began to dominate the game, firing pucks at the net and swarming Nittymaki.
David Legwand tied the game 1:12 into the period as he worked hard to get open for the shot. Ryan Jones scored on a rebound of a Nick Spaling shot 1:45 later to give the Predators a lead they would not relinquish. Patric Hornqvist swatted in a rebound at 12:22, and with the score 4-2 Predators, Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet pulled Nittymaki and inserted Mike Smith into goal to try to change momentum.
The Predators made Smith feel welcome, in a Predator, way by scoring just :28 seconds after Smith entered the game.J.P. Dumont backhanded in a rebound to make the score 5-2. Dan Hamhuis scored with 3:51 remaining in the period to make the score 6-2. Five goals in a period. This from the "offensively challenged" Predators.
A chippy third period saw Kurtis Foster score on the power play to make the score 6-3. Vinny Lecavalier tallied his second goal on a breakaway to make it 6-4. Martin Erat scored his 11th goal of the season to quell any rally attempts by the Lightning and make the score 7-4. The Predators controlled the remainder of the game and stymied any further rally attempts by the Lightning. Final: 7-4 Predators.
Notice the Predator players cited for tallying goals? Seven goals scored by seven different players. Every line scoring for the Predators. And it was not fancy. None of the goals were highlight reel goals. Instead, they were blue collar goals- goals that game from being around the net to gather rebounds. Goals that came from being strong on the puck. Goals that in a word, were workman like.
This Predator team is not flashy. This Predator team doesn't score highlight reel goals. This Predator team is, however, a tough team against which to play. This Predator team is a dangerous team when they play their style of hockey. They can be relentless in crashing the net and pressuring the other team. Tonight, fans saw the results of that relentless effort.
This is the type of hockey that the Predators have to play. And when they play that type of hockey, they can win against anyone.
Twelve goals in two games. Twelve goals that are the result of unrelenting effort and blue collar hockey. They don't grade the goals on style points, boys. They count 'em when they are in the back of the net.
This team is rugged and built for the rigors of an 82 game season. Be consistent, bring the effort you did tonight every night, and you will continue to see the wins pile up. Wins that come from playing Predator hockey.