Thursday, March 17, 2016

Johansen and Neal Carry the Predators to 4-2 Victory Over the Islanders

The Nashville Predators returned home to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena and showed themselves to be less than gracious hosts to the New York Islanders. The Predators dispatched the Islanders 4-2 for their second win in a row and their 4th win in their last 6 games.

James Neal, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Johansen, and Austin Watson (empty netter) tallied for the Predators. Ryan Pulock notched his first NHL goal and Brock Nelson finished the scoring for the Islanders.

Neal and Johansen each had a goal and an assist.

Neal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission, taking a nice feed from Calle Jarnkrok and burying a shot from the slot past Thomas Greiss.

Pulock tied the game with a shot from the blue line that Pekka Rinne never saw until it hit the back of the net to tie the game.

Ryan Ellis scored with a laser while the Predators were on the power play. Ellis deposited the shot under the crossbar with Mike Fisher in front screening Greiss.

Ryan Johansen took a lead pass from Anthony Bitetto and skated in alone on Greiss. RyJo fired a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Greiss into the top corner to make it 3-1.

Nelson was able to get a shot past Rinne, who got most of the puck but it leaked under his arm and over the goal line to make it 3-2 going into the second intermission.

The only scoring in the third was an empty net goal from Watson with just under a minute remaining.

Some observations:

  • Great vision and on ice awareness from Calle Jarnkrok to set up the Predators first goal. He drew three isles defenders to him and was able to spot Neal and hit him with a perfect backhand pass. The Real Deal made no mistakes in whistling a wrist shot past Greiss.
  • Neal has been on fire recently, tallying 21 (12G-9A) points in his last 28 games. He has 4 goals in his last 2 games and has recorded at least one point in 10 of his last 11 games against the Islanders (7G-9A). 
  • With 2 points tonight, Neal now has 398 career points.
  • The Predators took no penalties tonight.
  • The Islanders took one penalty for the game, and the Predators power play converted (huge sigh of relief) on their opportunity with the man advantage.
  • The Predators are 12-7-2 all time against the Islanders. They are 8-3-0 against the Isles at Bridgestone Arena.
  • Both goalies made some very good saves tonight. Rinne had to scramble in the second period as the Islanders stepped up their game and brought some good pressure. I can't fault him on the Pulock goal that made its way through a maze of bodies, but the Nelson goal should have never happened. Greiss faced considerably more pressure than Rinne in the first period especially, and he made some very good saves, including a spectacular save on a Ryan Ellis backhand from the slot.
  • The Predators offense never stopped coming, though. The Ellis goal was a blast just under the crossbar. Johansen's goal was a pure goal scorer's goal, over the glove and into the top corner. I like the fact that the Predators keep coming with the pressure. This is the formula for success for this team.
  • The Predators did an exceptional job most of the night of disrupting the Isles breakouts. Their forecheck and pressure in the neutral zone negated the speed of the Islanders and made it difficult for their potent offense to find rhythm and space. How effective were they? They held the Islanders to 2 shots on goal in the third period, and for the game, they out shot the Islanders 32-22.
  • The Predators have 1 regulation loss in their last 17 games (11-1-5).
This was a solid win against a very good team. It should give the Predators confidence that they can own the ice at home. They will need to do so if they are to have continued success.

The Predators improved to 36-22-13, good for 85 points. They are 4th in the Central and sit 3 points behind the Blackhawks for 3rd.

They will get an opportunity to close that gap tomorrow night in Washington.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Johansen

2. James Neal

3. Ryan Ellis 

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