The Nashville Predators looked to be cruising to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning as they held that comfortable lead late in the third period. Two Tampa goals in the span of 57 seconds forced the Predators to scramble for the win, but win they did by a 4-3 margin.
With the win, the Predators moved to 5-0-3 and remain as the only team in the League that has not lost a game in regulation.
With the Predators playing the previous night in Dallas, Anders Lindback got the start.
The Lightning opened the scoring at 6:30 of the first period as Sean Bergenheim made a nice move on Lindback on a breakaway.
The Predators would answer at 11:54 of the period as Shea Weber would notch his first goal of the season. His defense partner, Francis Bouillon would take a shot from the point. Weber went to the net and roofed a beauty of a shot top corner to beat Lightning netminder Dan Ellis, who was getting the start against his former team.
Sergei Kostitsyn would get his first goal of the season at 15:04 of the first as he shoved in a rebound of a Jerred Smithson shot. Kostitsyn has been playing with a broken toe, and it is good for the team to see his game starting to round into shape. This goal was purely gritty, drive to the net hockey. Smithson's strong drive to the net didn't allow Ellis to control the rebound. Kostitsyn drove hard to the net as well and cleaned up the rebound lying free at the side of the net.
The second period was back and forth, with both teams getting scoring opportunities and both teams having good defensive stands. That would change at 17:55 of the second, and the change would come from an unlikely source.
David Legwand controlled the puck in the defensive zone and sent a pass to defenseman Cody Franson, who was breaking out of the zone. Franson went in alone on Ellis and made a sweet backhand to forehand move to beat Ellis for his second goal of the year and stake the Predators to a 3-1 lead.
Down 3-1 in the third period, the Bolts turned up the offensive pressure, but Lindback was very solid in net. He turned aside several quality scoring chances, including a breakaway attempt by Vinny Lecavalier. Lindback has looked very good in net and has given the Predators quality starts, which will be very important in a long season.
The Predators extended their lead to 4-1 at 14:10 of the third on a nice give and go between J.P. Dumont, Martin Erat, and Colin Wilson. Wilson was the beneficiary of the great puck movement as he buried a one timer past Ellis.
With six minutes left in the game and a three goal lead, the predators looked poised to cruise to an easy victory. The explosive Lightning had other ideas, however.
Martin St. Louis roofed a shot past Lindback at 15:01 to make the score 4-2. The Predators defensive coverage broke down and St. Louis was left alone at the side of the net.
Five minutes to go and a two goal lead. No problem for the Predators, right?
57 seconds later, former Predator Adam hall scored a fluky goal to make it 4-3 Predators. Hall was behind the net and threw the puck out front. It hit a skate and careened past a surprised Lindback between his skate and the post.
The Predators didn't make it easy on themselves as Martin Erat came dangerously close to boarding Steven Stamkos at 16:53 of the third. Luckily for the Predators, the call was two minutes for cross checking.
The Predators were able to kill off the power play, but looked as if they would ice the puck with approximately 25 seconds left in the period. Instead, icing was waved off on a great hustle play by Steve Sullivan. Sully hustled down the ice and dove to touch the puck first, forcing the Lightning to regroup and the clock to keep running.
The Predators were able to clear the puck and run out the clock for a quality win against on of the hottest teams in the League.
That can best summarize the effort tonight against the Bolts. The Predators contained a dangerous offense for much of the night. The goaltending by Lindback was superb. Scoring came from multiple lines.
All hallmarks of a quality win.
And a quality team.
It is early in the season, and the Predators have a lot of hockey yet to play. This team is learning a lot about itself, though. They are learning that they can deal with injury and adversity and that they can play winning hockey.
Take these lessons to heart and you will outlast the adversity and the rigors of the season.
My three stars:
1. Anders Lindback
2. Cody Franson
3. Colin Wilson