NASHVILLE – On the four-game homestand that concluded with Monday's 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators faced teams that entered second, third and fourth in the Western Conference.
Yet it was the team that was that ninth, the Kings, against whom Nashville coach Barry Trotz liked his team's performance the least.
No matter. Style points don't equate to standings points and Trotz's team picked up two more at home – something the Predators have done with regularity since the start of the New Year. The Preds have not lost in regulation at Bridgestone Arena since a 4-1 defeat to Dallas on Jan. 5, going 11-0-2 since. Overall, they are 12-1-2 at home since the calendar turned. That has helped them to climb the standings. The Preds entered the day four points behind Central Division foe St. Louis for fourth in the West.
"At home, we've had some good teams come in here," Trotz said. "I just think we knew we had a stretch of home games where, two things: We needed the wins because of the competition that we're facing. You have so many teams winning games. Today, I didn't think we had that focus and that sort of urgency we've had the last couple of games."
The paradox about that situation was that Nashville picked up two players on Monday's trade deadline day, center Paul Gaustad and left wing Andrei Kostitsyn – players who are sure to take the jobs of at least two forwards who dressed on Monday. Without naming names, Trotz said he didn't like how a number of his players whose jobs will be on the line performed.
He was asked if the stress of the deadline day had anything to do with that.
"I think this day for a lot of young guys -- I don't know how traumatic it is," Trotz said. "It's probably more traumatic for young guys than it is for older guys. But I don't know. I can't answer that specifically. I just thought (the Kings) had more urgency and I thought we would have a little more urgency because the group that's out there, there's a couple of new guys who will integrate into the group, so you want to make sure you seal your spot. I thought a couple of guys who were usually pretty good weren't so good."
Pekka Rinne made 29 saves to earn his League-best 35th win. Rinne has started 10 straight games and Trotz said will get a rare day off on Tuesday when the Predators visit Carolina. Rinne's 3,300 minutes and 57 games lead the League. On Friday, Trotz had intended to practice the shootout one day after the Preds lost a shootout to St. Louis, but he elected not to because he did not want to wear down Rinne.
"Yeah, it's going to be good," Rinne said. "Obviously, back-to-back games."
Los Angeles did not score until 3:24 remained in regulation when Dustin Brown's wrist shot from a steep angle banked off the skate of Predators defenseman Ryan Suter in front of the net and went in. Brown has 4 goals in his last two games for 18 on the season.
The Kings, the League's lowest-scoring team, were unable to notch their second straight win after a 4-0 win against Chicago on Saturday. They entered 3-5-2 in their past 10 games and are in danger of missing the playoffs, starting the day two points out of eighth in the Western Conference.
The teams took only one penalty apiece and each failed to score on the power play.
A huge turning point occurred at 3:52 of the second. Jeff Carter rang one off the post for Los Angeles, then Nashville took the puck down the other end. The Kings believed the puck was iced, but the whistle did not blow and Nashville took advantage of the situation. Set up by Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand ripped a shot from close range that missed the net but bounded off the boards right to Patric Hornqvist, who deposited it for his 18th goal and a share of the team lead to make it 2-0. Hornqvist, in his second game back after missing five with an upper-body injury, scored for the first time since Feb. 11.
Trotz noted that Hornqvist is notoriously streaky and so the goal was a good thing from that perspective.
"Yeah, it's always nice to get out of that way," said Hornqvist, who was plus-2 along with linemate David Legwand, who had a pair of assists. "You always want to get that goal and get going."
Roman Josi tallied his fourth goal of the season with 1:33 left in the first period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. The rookie defenseman pulled up short of the right circle and threw a soft wrist shot at the net, as his teammates charged towards the goal. The puck deflected off the stick of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick seemed to stop it, but seconds later the puck leaked through Quick and over the goal line. Josi said he had already gone to the bench for a line change then he heard the cheering for the goal.
"We're happy to get the win, but we were kind of sloppy a couple of times," Josi said. "Third (period), we made it way closer than it should be."
Monday was the first of six out of seven games on the road for the Kings. On Tuesday, they visit Minnesota – a team with which they are battling for that final playoff spot, as the Wild are three points behind them.
"I thought we played really well," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I don't think it had anything to do with bounces. Tough building to come into, tough team, good team. We pretty well matched them. We just didn't bear down and finish our opportunities. We had some great opportunities and didn't finish the job. You can't call them bad bounces. We had guys on the ice that thought the second one was icing. You can't do that. That's simple. You have to play as if it is not – whistle to whistle."