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2015-16 Top Games Countdown: No. 2

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Feb. 27: Blues vs. Predators

In the first season of Golden Saturdays, one in particular stands out among the rest.

During their final contest of February, the Nashville Predators unleashed a full out drubbing of the St. Louis Blues, featuring a natural hat trick from Filip Forsberg and Pekka Rinne’s 40th career shutout. Craig Smith scored the first of five Nashville goals, before Forsberg notched the next three - marking his second three-goal output of the week and making him the first Preds skater to ever record multiple hat tricks in a season.

With Rinne making several difficult stops to keep the Blues at bay until the Predators mounted their offensive charge, Forsberg said the team’s fourth-straight victory originated from a renewed focus on team defense.

“We’ve really found a way to play defensively, and I think that’s the biggest key,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, to get offense too, I think we’re playing really solid defensively and our goalie’s coming up with big saves when we need him to.”

Although defense may have gotten the ball rolling on that particular Saturday afternoon, the offensive onslaught was the take away for many observers. Colin Wilson tallied his fifth goal of the season early in the third and Forsberg and Smith finished with four and three points, respectively, to complete Nashville’s dominant win over a division rival.

Check back next weekend for the No. 1 game in our countdown!

Golden Goal:

Mike Ribeiro sees Filip Forsberg across the ice waiting to shoot and sauces a puck from circle to circle for the one-time strike. Forsberg’s second natural hat trick in three games, the Swede accomplished an offense stat line many players won’t achieve in a career.

Hats For Fil. Again:

Filip Forsberg scored three goals on Tuesday in Toronto as the Preds topped the Maple Leafs 3-2. On Saturday, he did it again.

Forsberg’s hat trick helped lead the Preds to a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Blues, tying his career high for goals in a single season with 26 that was set one season ago. The Swede is tied for the League lead in goals with 12 during the month of February.

Forsberg is the first player from any club to register multiple natural hat tricks in three or fewer games since 1986-87. It also marks the first time a Preds player has recorded two hat tricks in the same season.

“A lot of our guys [have great confidence] right now,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “There’s quite a few guys playing with a lot of confidence; Pekka’s got a lot of confidence, Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro. But Fillip really seems to be really dialed in right now, he’s moving quickly, he’s moving the puck quickly, getting the shot off quick, and all that is translating to offense.”

Along with Smith and Ribeiro, Forsberg’s line has been on a tear, accounting for four of Nashville’s five goals against on Saturday.

“The start of this year, I wasn’t playing my best hockey,” Forsberg said. “There was a slow start, but I think our linemates… have really been stepping up lately and it feels great to help the team win games.”

“Filip had a real good first year,” Laviolette said. “It’s certainly up there with some of the best hockey, that he’s played. He’s consistent right now. When he plays with pace and he does things fast with the puck, it becomes really difficult to defend. He plays the off-wing so he moves it in and out of the ice surface and just creates things. He gets his shot off and makes a play to somebody else. He’s got a lot of confidence, he’s in a stretch right now where he is playing really good hockey.”

Gif of the Game:

After firing a puck past Jake Allen for the second time, Filip Forsberg glides right toward the camera, arms aloft.

Quotables:

Mattias Ekholm on playing well late in the season:

“I thought we played a great series against Chicago [last season]. We ended up losing it, but I would rather come in like this. Everyone’s probably feeling pretty good about themselves and everyone is playing great. 5-0 against St. Louis on home ice on a Saturday, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Frozen Focus:

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