Sometimes, it is the little things that make a difference in a game. In a tight playoff race, little things become big things. Tonight, the Predators did the little things well and the result was a 4-2 victory over the L.A. Kings, a team that had won 11 of their last 13 games.
The Predators consistently won battles along the wall. They aggressively forechecked all night. They controlled play in the neutral zone and stymied L.A. at the blue line. Little things that don't show up in the score sheet, but can swing the tide of a game.
Once again, the Predators found themselves in an early hole as they lost a defensive zone draw. Alexander Frolov controlled the puck, split two defenders, and beat Pekka Rinne with a backhand. An inauspicious start against a team that, like the Predators, is battling for a playoff spot. A start that could dictate the momentum of the game. A little thing like winning a draw and the result is a score for the opposition.
However, a little thing would bite the Kings. Goalie Jonathan Quick went behind the net to handle a simple dump in, and in the process of routing the puck back to his defenseman, completely missed him. J.P. Dumont was cruising in, following the play, and gathered in the misplayed puck and fired it into the open net. A little thing that turned out to be huge. A little thing that swung momentum back to the Predators.
Tied at one after the intermission, the Predators started to dominate. They outshot the Kings in the second period 15-4. They controlled play in the neutral zone. They won puck battles. And they little things that the Preds did well started to wear down the potent Kings squad.
After three rather impotent power plays, the Predators finally converted. With Wayne Simmonds in the box for hooking, Jason Arnott rifled a shot over the glove hand of Quick and into a small area short side top corner. A goal scorers goal by a player that has to start scoring more goals. This was Arnott's second goal in as many games, and it is good to see the big guy start to tally some points.
The third period began with the Predators holding the one goal lead, but that would change just 2:30 into the period. Marcel Goc took a pass from Marty Erat, and rather than attempt a weak backhand, moved the puck to his forehand a fired a shot over the shoulder of Quick from the low slot. The little thing that Goc did- showing patience in a scoring area- resulted in the Predators extending their lead to two goals.
The Kings converted a 4 on 3 power play four minutes later to make it a 3-2 game. Drew Doughty was able to get the puck past Rinne, and Predator fans knew that the Kings were going to turn up the intesnity in the remaining 14 minutes of the contest.
The Predators refused to wilt and stayed the course with their game. The forecheck was relentless tonight, a L.A. was rarely able to enter the neutral zone with speed. The Predators won puck battles and kept the puck deep in the L.A. zone. Little things that don't show up on the score sheet, but little things that can decide the outcome of a game.
Jerred Smithson iced the game with an empty netter with :54 seconds remaining, and the Predators secured another win and two precious points.With this win, they now have 75 points and sit firmly in the 7th spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Little things that decide the outcome of the game, like the top line of Arnott, Dumont, and Sullivan not only scoring but playing solid two way hockey. They played with jump tonight. They controlled the puck. They showed they could still be a dangerous line. Little things that make a huge difference.
Little things like all four lines playing solid offense and defense. Winning puck battles; being strong on the walls; relentlessly forechecking and frustrating the Kings offense. Little things that don't get much notice, but build to a huge win.
For the Predators to continue winning and solidifying a playoff spot, they will have to continue to do the little things well. They will have to continue to play this way every time they step on the ice.
This team is not flashy or fancy. Never have been. But when they do the little things well, like they did tonight, they can capture more huge wins.
Big victories are built on little things. Keep doing the little things well, like you did tonight, and you will pile up a lot of big wins.