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Johansen Tallies Winner as Preds Top Sabres, Gain in Central Division

Nashville Back into Tie Atop Division, Watson Solid in Return to Lineup

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / NashvillePredators.com

Recap: NSH 3, BUF 2

Subban, Johansen pace Predators past Sabres, 3-2

P.K. Subban recorded a goal and an assist, while Ryan Johansen provided the go-ahead goal in the 3rd to lead the Predators to a 3-2 victory

  • 04:25 •

They're right back up at the top.

Ryan Johansen got the winner in the third period and the Nashville Predators took care of business on Tuesday night, recording a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres to get back up to the top of the Central Division with 96 points, good enough to tie Winnipeg.

With two games to go in the regular season, a chance at a second consecutive division crown is just the opportunity Nashville wanted. A 6-2-1 mark in their last nine games has pushed the Predators back into a favorable position coming down the stretch.

Tuesday's game in Buffalo saw the Sabres get their looks and opportunities, but the Predators stuck to their game and grinded out their final road win of the 2018-19 regular season.

"It was a good road win," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "It wasn't easy out there, but we kept working. As the game went on, I thought the third period was really good, especially after giving up that goal late in the second, so that was really positive for us."

Video: NSH@BUF: Smith deflects Subban's shot past Hutton

The game's first goal went to Craig Smith after a P.K. Subban shot bounced off of Smith's stick and past Carter Hutton for a 1-0 advantage midway through the opening period. Kyle Okposo evened the score on a rebound late in the stanza, but just 44 seconds into the middle frame, Subban blasted home a shot from the right circle to give Nashville the lead once more.

Video: NSH@BUF: Subban hammers slap shot past Hutton

But with 4.6 seconds remaining in the period, Buffalo tied it again - thanks to Jeff Skinner - who got a friendly bounce off the endboards, setting the table for Johansen to do exactly the same.

At 6:32 of the third, Nashville's top centerman took advantage of a carrom and roofed a shot to give the Preds their final lead of the night.

Video: NSH@BUF: Johansen roofs backhand shot over Hutton

"That's exactly our message going into the third, go out and play our game and do the little things right," Johansen said. "Do it hard and execute our details well, and the game will take care of itself and that's how it ended up going."

The rest of the group took care of things after Johansen's tally, including forward Austin Watson who returned to the lineup after missing the past 27 games. Watson led the team with four hits and blocked one shot in more than 14 minutes of ice time, playing his role to perfection.

"Credit to them over there, they played hard and they were pushing the pace up the ice for a lot of the game," Watson said. "It was a good one to get into, and I felt the lungs there a little bit in the first period, but overall to get two points here coming on the road and get that first one in, it felt good."

"It was awesome," Laviolette said of getting Watson back in the lineup. "He played a really good game, physical, detailed, and I thought the line was really good again for the purpose that we use them."

Nashville's second forward unit of Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund and Smith also impressed, a positive sign for the Preds with the playoffs looming.

"Kyle could have had a goal or two, Granlund had a couple of looks and Smitty was working hard, so they produced a lot of opportunities," Laviolette said. "With opportunity, with guys like that, is usually going to come some results. They got one tonight, but it was a really good step in the right direction."

Only two games remain on the schedule for the Preds and as they look to stay atop the Central Division, they'll need all the points they can get, and the final week is off to a solid start.

"Within this locker room, we have goals and we have things we're striving for," Johansen said. "It's about continuing to move in the right direction and taking it one day at a time."

Video: Subban, Johansen pace Predators past Sabres, 3-2

Notes:

Forwards Rem Pitlick, Miikka Salomaki, Rocco Grimaldi (upper body), Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau, as well as defensemen Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin, were scratched for Nashville on Tuesday.

Prior to Tuesday's game, the Predators assigned forward Zac Rinaldo to the Milwaukee Admirals on long-term injury loan.

With the road portion of the 2018-19 schedule now complete, the Predators return home to play the final two games of the regular season beginning on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena against the Vancouver Canucks. The Preds then host Chicago on Saturday for Fan Appreciation Night before the postseason begins next week.

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