James Neal scored twice and Filip Forsberg added the winner in the shootout as the Nashville Predators defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 5-4 final on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
It was the second consecutive shootout victory for the Preds, who improved their record to 5-1-0 on the season. The contest was back and forth, and Nashville was able to keep up, answering each Lightning goal with tallies of their own.
“It went back-and-forth at a really good pace,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought both teams played very well, and that’s probably why we had a shootout. It was a great game.”
The Predators continued their streak of scoring first in every game this season when Mike Fisher potted his first of the season at 19:07 of the opening frame. Preds Captain Shea Weber fed Fisher from behind the Tampa Bay net and the forward snuck a shot through Ben Bishop for a 1-0 lead. Nashville is yet to allow a goal in the first period this season and have outscored their opponents 6-0 during that span.
The offense that was lacking in the opening 20 minutes was made up for in the second, as the teams combined for five goals. Tampa Bay got on the board as Steven Stamkos scored his fifth of the season, a power-play goal for the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov then got credit for Tampa Bay’s second goal before Weber tied the contest at 2-2 with a blast from the point, his first of the season.
Ryan Callahan put the Bolts back on top, but with just over a minute left in the middle stanza, James Neal ripped a shot from the right wing for his fourth goal in the last three games to put the Preds back into a tie headed into the second intermission.
Tampa Bay retook the lead on an Erik Condra goal just over five minutes into the third period, but Neal struck again off a cross-ice feed from Forsberg, one-timing a shot past Bishop.
A shootout was required, and Forsberg converted for the Preds before Pekka Rinne stopped all three Lightning shooters to seal the victory for Nashville. The win also improved Rinne’s personal record to 5-0-0 all-time against Tampa Bay.
“We’re six games into the season and it looked like a mid-season game,” Rinne said. “There were a lot of fast guys out there and a lot of chances going both ways. They’re a really good team. They went up 4-3 in the third period and we came back, which is a huge momentum swing, but we went to OT and nothing happened there. It was a really big two points.”
Neal Doubles Up...Again:
Neal followed up his two-goal performance on Saturday against the Senators with more of the same at home on Tuesday. The Preds forward scored two more against the Bolts, perhaps the biggest two of the night for Nashville, including the game-tying marker with less than six minutes to play.
“He’s been really good for a few games now,” Laviolette said of Neal. “Filip Forsberg was really good tonight also. Every time that line was out there, there was the opportunity for something good to happen. They found a nice rhythm tonight.”
Perhaps just as impressive as Neal’s goal was the feed received by the winger from Forsberg, who slung a pass from the left side of the ice all the way to a waiting Neal at the right circle. The connection between the two wingers saved the game for the Preds and wasn’t half bad to watch either.
“That was a great pass,” Neal said of the play. “I thought he did a great job of hunting the puck down before the pass. He was in a race with the defenseman, won a big battle and then shot a pass over to me pretty hard. It was a great goal.”
Forsberg has been more than impressed with his linemate over the past two contests and has every intention of feeding Neal with regularity.
“He’s really working his body down low,” Forsberg said of Neal. “He’s a big guy and can really protect the puck. He’s a really good skater with a goal sense, and he’s got a really good shot, so I just try to find him as much as I can.”
Gif of the Game:
Forsberg pushes the puck into the corner of the offensive zone, spins and delivers a cross-ice feed to Neal for a one-timer goal.
James Neal on facing the Tampa Bay Lightning:
“That’s why they were in the Stanley Cup Final last year; they play a quick game and they have some really skilled players,” Neal said. “At times we were in our own end, but I thought we did a great job of defending and turning that into offense. Pekka was unbelievable all night. [He was] making big save after big save. I guess we kind of have come to expect that out of him, but he’s a warrior. He battles every night and he loves it that way… so good for him.”
With his first-period goal, Mike Fisher tied former Preds defenseman Kimmo Timonen for 12th on the all-time goal list in franchise history with 79.
Defensemen Victor Bartley and Anthony Bitetto both made their season debuts in place of the injured Ryan Ellis and Barret Jackman. Ellis and Jackman are both listed as day-to-day.
The Preds home stand continues on Thursday as they host the Anaheim Ducks before Pittsburgh comes to town on Saturday.
Special teams play and the location of each goal get the spotlight in tonight’s infographic.
Infographic: Neal Blasts Lightning