The Preds played a solid bounce-back game, scoring twice in the first period to erase an early deficit and controlling the play for the majority of the second period before extending the lead to 3-1 in the final moments of the frame and then settling in through the third period for a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, erasing the sting from Tuesday night's home defeat.
Nashville stepped up its physical play -- dishing out a number of glass-rattling checks, winning the majority of the one-on-one battles along the boards and in the corners, and even dropping the gloves in a pair of scrums -- and as a result created a strong advantage in prime scoring chances. With an extra bounce of the puck here or there, the Preds easily could have put a few more goals on the board, but credit Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov for keeping the game close.
With the win, the Preds close to within four points of Detroit for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and extend their lead to six points over No. 6 seed Chicago (with a game at hand against the Hawks). Nashville is now 11 points above of the playoff cut line with 15 games remaining in the regular season.
Now on to the musings... THREE MUSINGSThe Gaustad Effect: Paul Gaustad
showed why the Preds were so interested in him at the Trade Deadline, he was 7-of-12 on faceoffs – including a big offensive zone win to set up Nashville’s second goal and a key defensive zone draw late in regulation as the Preds held off the late charge – and made the key defensive zone read to create a turnover and spring Martin Erat
for the game-sealing empty-net goal. Gaustad was also very strong on one-on-one situations, winning the majority of his battles along the boards.
The Kostitsyn Brothers: Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn were both – to borrow a Coach Trotz term – “engaged” in the game tonight and were dangerous catalysts for their two lines. Sergei scored Nashville’s third goal and factored in its first – driving the net to provide a screen for Mike Fisher’s shot. He also drew a power-play for the Preds, dancing through three Avs in the neutral zone to force a Shane O’Brien hook. Andrei, though he didn’t get on the score sheet, was equally as dominant paired with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist, especially with the puck on his stick making several deft stickhandling plays – he had a great scoring chance on a rebound late in the first period and created a very nifty scoring chance in the closing minutes of the second period on a transition rush with Paul Gaustad. Sergei finished the game with five shot attempts (three on net, two wide), while Andrei picked up four shot attempts.
Stating Their Cases: Matt Halischuk and Brandon Yip both returned to the lineup tonight after spending time as healthy scratches. And each made a major positive impact in tonight’s win. Yip got to the front of the net and deflected Roman Josi’s shot from the point late in first period to give the Preds their first lead of the night, 2-1. Halischuk earned the lone assist on the game-winning goal with dogged forecheck pursuit and deflected Colorado’s clearing attempt allowing Sergei Kostitsyn to skate into a loose puck in the high slot for Nashville’s third goal of the game. Beyond those highlight plays, both were solid in their “game detail” and provided both physicality and speed to the Preds attack.
Head Coach Barry Trotz on Nashville’s overall effort tonight…
"I think we had a much better effort. We wanted to get off to a good start. They scored right away, but I thought we responded really well, and the rest of the period we were really good. The chances were pretty lopsided according to our coach’s count.... We couldn’t pull away. Varlamov made some good saves and kept them in."
Captain Shea Weber on facing a desperate opponent...
"We’re usually the team that’s in that situation it seems like in the past – where we’re battling for those final three spot. We should have some desperation of our own. I think we’re still in striking distance to win our division, so we need to be desperate to do that, and that’ll give us home ice in the playoffs."
Goaltender Pekka Rinne on not facing as many shots tonight…
"It’s a sign of the fact that we play well. We didn’t give them much. If I would be selfish, it’s easier to play when you face more shots and kind of stay in the game all the time. But you just have to stay sharp. You always know they’re going to have a really good push at the end of the game. We managed the game really well, even though they got close a couple times there – hit the cross bar. But tonight, we deserved a couple of those bounces."
1) NSH F Sergei Kostitsyn - 1 goal, 3 shots on net; scored the GWG, drew a Preds Power-Play, was dangerous with the puck on his stick
2) COL F Paul Stastny - 1 goal, 1 assist, 12-of-18 on faceoffs; consistently dangerous all game
3) NSH F Paul Gaustad - 1 assist, 7-of-12 on faceoffs; won the faceoff which led to Nashville's go-ahead goal late in the first period, strong on the boards, created play for Erat's empty net goal