CORAL SPRINGS, Fl. – If the line of Adam Erne, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov wasn't comfortable yesterday, that trio along with the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects gained more familiarity in a dominating 7-4 win against the Nashville Predators.
It was only Day 2 of the prospects tourney, but the team looked to have gained their bearings in today's match, starting with the Russian Factor and adding a dash of Erne and another touch of physicality to the mix.
"We just talked and found out how each of us play on our other teams," said Namestnikov, who also donned an "A" as alternate captain today in addition to J.T. Brown and Andrej Sustr. "Other then that you just get used to it, game-by-game, and that's what we did today and it worked out for us."
The line, which contributed a dominating eight points yesterday, made a transition from second to the top line today and added another five points from their credentials.
JT Brown's empty net goal sealed a 7-4 win over Nashville Saturday
"There's just a lot of skill between Namestnikov and Kucherov," said tournament and Syracuse Crunch (AHL) head coach Rob Zettler. "Erne compliments them because he's a go-to-the-net kind of guy, he goes to the dirty areas and gets to the hard spots. They all just work well together and have been fun to watch."
Starting the game trailing with an early goal by fourth overall pick in this year's draft, Seth Jones, who drilled a shot past Tampa Bay rookie camp invitee Eric Brassard from the blueline, the Bolts Nikita Nesterov scored his first goal of the tournament just minutes later.
The Predators again opened scoring in the second, but the Lightning would respond with two quick goals of their own that led to five total goals in the period for a 6-2 advantage.
"We were down 2-1 and [Luke] Witkowski had a good fight right there for us," said Tampa Bay forward Tanner Richard. "I think that gave us momentum and we took off from there."
Netminder Brassard took control between the pipes after letting two slip past him, but went down at the end of the second period, after reaching for a puck and landing hard on his left arm. Goalie Kristers Gudlevskis was then summoned to the net, but the Lightning seemed to lose steam.
Nashville capitalized on the opportunity by scoring two unanswered goals in the third and bringing the Predators within two with 10 minutes remaining.
"They were obviously pushing hard, they didn't want it to be a blow out, so they were coming back," said Richard. "We just kind of got back up, got together and said, "hey guys its not over," there's still 10 minutes left, let's make sure we finish it off good."
And that they did as J.T. Brown scored the empty-netter at 19:21, giving the Bolts a 7-4 advantage and their first win of the weekend.
ZETTLER ON DROUIN'S HEALTHY SCRATCH:
"There's nothing behind it," said Bolts rookie tourney head coach Rob Zettler. "We had talked about it prior to the tournament. We kind of had some people in mind that we didn't want to play three games in three days because they haven't skated much in the past few weeks, so it was by design."
ODDS AND ENDS:
The Tampa Bay Lightning went 1-for-1 on the power play, while Nashville converted 2-of-5 man-advantage opportunities.
Taking their first lead of the tournament in the second today, the Lightning also tallied five goals in the period.
There was no update available on goaltender Brassard's upper-body injury after the game.
Blueliner Luke Witkowski engaged in the first fight of the tournament for the Bolts with Predators forward Sebastian Geoffrion. The fight lasted less than 30 seconds with Geoffrion being the first to fall to the ice. Both took 2 minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the second.