When an old friend comes to visit, it is always nice to give them a warm welcome, and sometimes some nice gifts. The Nashville Predators did just that, welcoming Tomas Vokoun, a former Predators goalie with two first period goals en route to a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Vokoun was welcomed back to the Bridgestone Arena with a goal on the first shot of the game. Ryan Suter, pinching in on the off wing, snapped a wrist shot low to Vokoun's stick side off a nice assist from Marty Erat to make it 1-0 just 1:14 into the contest.
Suter would also figure into the Predators second goal as he would carry the puck deep into the offensive zone and behind the net. He found Shea Weber at the top of the face off circle, and Weber ripped a shot over Vokoun's glove side and inside the far post to make it 2-0 at 16:49 of the first period.
Anders Lindback got the start in net for the Predators and pitched the first shutout of his career. He faced 22 shots and was solid in net, making some key saves to thwart the Panthers. Lindback continues to look poised and grows more confident each game. Lindback gave up very few rebounds and second chances to the Panthers and was able to track the puck very well through traffic. This win was the first shutout of Lindback's career, and runs his record to 6-1-2.
The Predators did a good job of keeping the Panthers to the perimeter most of the night. Florida was able to cycle the puck well at times, but failed to generate many quality chances against the Predators defense.
The Predators were the more physical of the two teams. In a highlight hit, Jordin Tootoo absolutely smoked Michael Frolik with a devastating- and clean- hit that flipped Frolik head over heels. Tootoo was jumped by two Panthers after the hit and amazingly was called for roughing along with the Panthers Bryan McCabe. Tootoo's hit set the tone for the night and delivered the message to the Panthers that they were in for a physical contest.
The game was scoreless in the second period, as the Predators generated some good chances, but could not get another marker past Vokoun.
The Predators would add an empty net goal in the third period on the power play as Joel Ward would tally an empty net goal with Vokoun pulled at 19:06 of the period.
This game could have easily been a trap game for the Predators. Facing a team that they do not see often and from the Eastern Conference, the concern was the intensity that the Predators would bring to the contest. This question was answered early and resoundingly by the effort of the Predators. Overall, it was a solid win by the Predators, and more importantly, it was two precious points in the standings.
The intensity and the effort were good, and that is a positive. The negatives to this contest were the failure to finish some of the scoring chances that they had and the ineffectiveness of the power play. These are facets of their game that still has to improve. The forwards for the Predators created chances but did not finish. For this team to be successful over the long haul, they are going to have to do that consistently.
With this victory, the Predators are 4-0-2 against the Southeast Division.
This win was one that the Predators should have won, and taking care of business like they did is good for their psyche.
With a stretch of home games on the schedule, it is time to build on this momentum and take care of business.
My three stars:
1. Anders Lindback
2. Ryan Suter
3. Shea Weber