The Predators completed a successful west coast road trip by downing the L.A. Kings 3-2 in a Sunday afternoon matinee. With the victory over the Kings, the Preds won three of four games on the road, wins that are vital in positioning for the playoffs.
The Kings are always a test for the Predators, as they bring speed, talented forwards, and an aggressive style of play to every game. The Predators were going to be challenged from the gitgo, and it was going to be imperative that they come out strong to have an opportunity for the victory.
Nashville opened the game with aggression and took the attack to the Kings. This style of play paid off early for the Predators as Steve Sullivan scored from a severe angle on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Sullivan was flying down the wing and took a pass from Marcel Goc, and when he saw an opening, fired the puck. Quick seemed surprised by the shot, and it slipped under his arm and found the back of the net.
The Kings would answer just over four minutes later on the power play as the Predator defense lost Anze Kopitar and he was able to cruise into the low slot alone and blasted a puck past Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne is owed an apology from his D on that goal.
The second period would be scoreless, as both teams fought to gain a territorial advantage on the ice, and neither team giving an inch. Nashville recorded eight shots on goal; L.A. had four. L.A. came close to scoring in the period, but Rinne appeared to make a spectacular save on a goal that surely would have been reviewed. However, the official waved the goal off as Ryan Smythe interfered with Rinne, making the review moot.
In the third period, each team traded chances with neither backing down. That would change when Dustin Brown beat Rinne with a wrister from between the faceoff circles at 5:56 of the third period. Momentum to the Kings, and the crowd was in full throat exhorting the home team to victory.
Every Preds fan knew that the Predators needed to answer the Kings score, and answer the Predators did just :39 seconds later. Colin Wilson followed a strong drive to the net by Marty Erat with a tap in of the rebound off the initial save by Quick. Wilson was smart on the play as he followed Erat and parked himself at the side of the net. The rebound came right to him and he knocked the puck in for his 6th goal of the season. A smart play by a young man that is solidifying his role on this team.
With the game tied and the period winding down, both teams were still pushing for the game winning tally. Each team generated some chances, but it was the Predators that broke through as Patric Hornqvist got a rebound at the top of the crease and banged the puck past Quick. Hornqvist was doing the dirty work in his "office" and once again it paid off for the Predators. The game winning goal was Hornqvist's team leading 26th goal of the season, and it came at 16:29 of the third period.
The Predators were able to turn back the Kings over the last 3:31 of the period and skated off with their seventh straight victory over L.A. More importantly, they come back home with 6 of 8 points in their pocket.
All Predator fans are scoreboard watching at this time of year. Watching Colorado and L.A., who are just in front of us in the standings. Watching Calgary and Detroit, who are chasing us for a playoff spot. Watching the scoreboard is fine, but the Predators are doing what they need to do to secure a playoff spot.
Don't worry about what the other teams are doing. Be concerned only with your game and the effort you bring to the ice every game. And you have to bring it. Like you did on this road trip. That is your key to the post season.
There was a worry about the psyche of this team after their meltdown against San Jose. Would they be resilient? Could they bounce back?
The Predators resoundingly answered those questions with two gritty one goal wins, in Anaheim and L.A. They skated hard and were aggressive. They played Predator hockey.
Between now and the end of the regular season will be a dogfight. It's going to be tough every night. It's going to require heart and grit. You're going to have to reach down deep and secure the wins and points you need. You can't depend on anyone else but the guys that put on the sweater and step out on the ice.
Play like you did on this road trip, and you won't have to worry about what the other teams are doing. Play like you did on this road trip, and you will be in the playoffs.
Time to translate that road mojo into wins on home ice, boys. Looking forward to seeing you back at the bridge on Tuesday.