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Post-Game Musings: vs Winnipeg

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Alexander Radulov's home debut brought the pre-game headlines, but it was a pair of another young forwards that keyed the Preds 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. Nashville Predators got second period goals from Matt Halischuk and Gabriel Bourque to break open a scoreless game and then turned things over to Pekka Rinne in the third period. Rinne made 24 saves, including some highlight reel stops early in the third period, for his 40th win of the season.

With the victory Nashville moves two points ahead of idle Chicago (tomorrow night's opponent) for the No. 5 seed and remains one point behind No. 4 Detroit, also a winner tonight. Depending on the results from tonight's late games, the Preds will finish the evening with a seven-to-nine point cushion over the playoff cutline as teams enter the final six or seven games of the regular season.

And now to the musings...

Depth Production: All four lines contributed to Nashville's win tonight. The Preds got goals from the bottom two lines of tonight’s line-up with Matt Halischuk (playing primarily on the Gaustad line) and Gabriel Bourque (playing primarily on the Spaling line) connecting 7:05 apart in the second period. The Legwand line --- arguably the best line for either team tonight --- controlled the action on most of their shifts, especially in the first period when they racked up an inordinate number of scoring chances and drew Nashville’s first power-play. The play of those three lines allowed Coach Trotz to keep the Fisher line in more of a match-up job against either of Winnipeg’s two dangerous offensive lines --- and even then the Fisher line got on the scoresheet, connecting for the empty netter to seal the win.

The Radulov Reaction: If there were any questions how the fans would respond to Alexander Radulov, they were answered affirmatively and immediately. Radulov received a strong welcome during pre-game warmups, with many fans creating specialized signs for Radulov. His first shift came during an on-the-fly shift change 1:17 into the game, which was quickly noted by the Bridgestone Arena faithful with a loud ovation.

Faceoffs: The return of Paul Gaustad helped the Preds production in the faceoff circle. With Gaustad winning 12 of his 20 faceoffs, Nashville as a team won 51% of its draws tonight. The Preds failed to crack the 50% mark in any of the four games during Gaustad's injury. More that the percentage, was the quality of the win; Nashville won 15-of-27 defensive zone faceoffs (55.6%) and after Winnipeg pulled its goalie late in regulation for the extra attacker, Mike Fisher cleanly won the neutral zone draw back to Shea Weber for the empty net goal to seal the win.

Coach Trotz on whether it is nice to have Radulov back in the lineup...
"Oh yeah. The play on even Halischuk's goal; that was pretty sweet. He has great vision, he has great hands. He's a very creative player. I thought he had a strong game. He's really good defensively too. He manages the game way better than he did four year ago and that's the benefit of time. I'm excited (to have him back in the lineup)."

Coach Trotz on tonight's game...
"Really what we've been harping on the last couple of days is just because we've added some people to the team, we still have to play our same game. We still have to play with the same detail. I thought we did a better job of that tonight."

Alexander Radulov on playing his first home game of the season…
"It was a hard game for us and Winnipeg played solid. We played good defensively and the crowd was crazy. It was great to be back and play the first home game. The fans were great and supported us the whole way. It was good."

NSH F Gabriel Bourque – 1 goal (GWG); 5 shots on goal; drew a power-play; was all over every loose puck
WPG D Dustin Byfuglien – 5 shots on goal; 3 blocked shots; dangerous in the offensive end, especially during the third period
NSH F Alexander Radulov – 1 assist; 20:29 ice time; several quality scoring chances

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