The Nashville Predators grabbed their second win in a row without Filip Forsberg, holding onto their one-goal lead over the Buffalo Sabres. The Predators move to 19-8-1 with 39 points and reclaim second place in the league.
Nashville Key Stats
Buffalo Key Stats
In the first period, Nashville pressured Sabres’ goaltender Carter Hutton relentlessly. The second and third line combined for five shots. After killing off a Buffalo power play, Johansen drew the Predators’ first penalty of the night. Ellis banged Nashville’s first goal past Hutton from the left faceoff circle, and Nashville had the 1-0 lead at the end of one.
Buffalo intensified the pressure in the second period. In a scramble in front of the net, Josi accidentally slipped the puck into a wide open Nashville net. Rinehart received credit for the goal, and the game was tied. The Predators immediately responded- all four lines picked up the pace, and fought to stay in their own zone. Fiala shot the puck through Hutton’s pads after Smith retrieved a pass from behind the cage, and Nashville ended the second period leading 2-1.
The third period saw numerous chances from both teams, but Hutton and Pekka Rinne stopped every shot they faced. Nashville closed out the third period after a surge of offense from the Sabres in the final minutes and pulled out a 2-1 victory.
Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith have combined for 11 points in the last five games. Fiala is leading the charge with The two forwards will need to continue to play their best hockey if the Predators are to survive without Forsberg and Arvidsson.
Roman Josi led the team in shots against the Sabres, Ryan Ellis netted a power play goal, and Mattias Ekholm assisted Kevin Fiala. Although they are not driving the offense, they are doing a tremendous job helping the forwards out.
Nashville created only 5 high danger chances- they also allowed 9 high danger chances. Rinne stopped 8 of those 9 chances, and the one that slipped through wasn’t his fault. The Predators cannot give up that many chances, especially right now, and especially to a dangerous shooting team such as Buffalo.
The Predators have taken 17 penalties in the last four games. Their penalty kill has risen to the challenge, killing off 14 of those 17. However, the team needs to stay out of the box more consistently. Nashville has also converted on the power play in two consecutive games.
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The Predators are finally skating the way they are capable of. From keeping the puck in their own zone to winning individual battles, Nashville, for the most part, has owned the ice for the last two games. They will be in loads of trouble if they slack off.
The biggest change in the Predators’ overall play is the forechecking from the forward lines. Nashville’s lines are challenging teams in their zones, and putting enormous amounts of pressure on the goaltenders instead of cycling the puck to the point and blasting one-timers from the blue-line.
Also, Ryan Hartman has been knocking on the door recently, driving to the net and pressuring opposing defensemen. He’s recorded 8 shots in two games, and increased his time on the ice by a full five minutes. Expect a breakout from #38 in the near future.
-Jack Woods covers the Nashville Predators and the Central Division for FullPressCoverage.com and PenaltyBoxRadio.com. You can follow Jack on Twitter at @jack_woods15 and the Full Press Predators at @FPC_Predators