In their two previous contests, the L.A. Kings have owned the Nashville Predators, winning the first two contests of the season by a combined score of 10-2 in games where the Predators never mustered much in the way of offense. Tonight, at the Staples Center,the Predators turned the tables on the Kings with a decisive 5-2 victory.
The first period opened with both teams showing some good jump and generating some quality scoring chances. Anders Lindback and Jonathan Bernier were both challenged and both were equal to the task.
L.A. opened the contest trying to take the body and exert their physical will. Unlike the two previous tilts, the Predators answered the physical challenge and did a good job of skating hard and establishing a good forecheck. That effort resulted in some good scoring chances, but the Predators were unable to solve Bernier.
Anders Lindback fended off some good scoring chances by the Kings, holding off all 12 of the Kings shots. Bernier stopped all 11 shots he faced from the Predators.
Kyle Clifford tallied for the Kings at 2:16 of the second period as J.P. Dumont absorbed a thunderous hit and was struggling to get to the bench, effectively leaving the Predators a man down. Marco Sturm shot the puck off the wing, and Lindback made the initial save but gave up a big rebound that Clifford buried into an open net.
The Predators had a glorious scoring opportunity as Patric Hornqvist found Kevin Klein sneaking down the off wing and hit him with a perfect pass. Bernier managed to slide across the net and get a piece of the shot for a great save five minutes into the period.
The injury bug continued to bite the Predators as the lost Nick Spaling to an upper body injury in the early going of the second period.
Jarrett Stoll scored on the power play at 7:57 of the second with Francis Buillon in the box for interference. Stoll launched a bomb from the blue line that beat Lindback high over his glove side. Lindback had lost his goal stick, but it was not a factor in the play as the shot beat Lindback cleanly.
The Predators answered on a power play of their own at 9:57. Ryan Suter wound up for what appeared to be a slap shot, but instead delivered a nice slap pass to Colin Wilson who was alone at the side of the net. Wilson re-directed the pass past Bernier for his 10th goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1.
This goal was critical for the Predators to stave off the momentum of the Kings and keep themselves in the contest.
Marek Svatos would tally his first goal as a Predator at 10:19 as Colin Wilson took a shot coming down the wing that Bernier kicked out off his pads. The rebound came to Svatos, who was driving the net and was able to put the rebound past an out of position Bernier.
The Predators had taken a punch from the Kings. In their previous contests, they did not answer. Tonight, they answered.
The Predators went back to the power play with Matt Greene in the box for interference and made the Kings pay for their transgression. Colin Wilson walked in off the half boards and cranked a shot low along the ice. Patric Hornqvist was camped- where else- at the top of the crease and re-directed the shot past Bernier for his 12th goal of the season at 14:28.
After back and forth play, including a fight between Francis Buillon and Wayne Simmonds that left Buillon with a broken nose, the period ended with the Predators on top 3-2.
The third period opened with more of the back and forth play between the teams, with each team looking for the other to break. The Kings were the first to crack under the pressure as Sergei Kostitsyn whistled a wrist shot toward Bernier. Bernier got a piece of the shot but not enough to stop it, and the puck slid in the net just inside the far post to extend the Predators lead to 4-2 at 9:10 of the third period. This was Kostitsyn's 10th goal of the season.
That off season signing of Kostitsyn by GM David Poile looks mighty good right now.
Patric Hornqvist tallied his second goal at 15:33 of the third period as he buried a rebound given up by Bernier off a shot by Sergei Kostitsyn. After being down 2-0, the Predators had scored five unanswered goals.
That 5-2 margin would be the final score of the game as the Predators played a complete game, being physical, aggressively forechecking to create offensive opportunities, and playing solid defense. These are the hockey characteristics that were vital to the Predators win.
The aspect of this game that doesn't show in the score sheet is the heart that the Predators displayed in winning this game. Down 2-0 to a team that had dominated them this season, it would have been easy to fold under the pressure. Instead, this team manned up and came back in the face of definite adversity.
Heart will be critical to continuing the winning streak and piling up points.
This team is built around heart and character. Continue to play like this, and this team will continue to win and lash future opponents.
My three stars:
1. Colin Wilson
2. Patric Hornqvist
3. Sergei Kostitsyn