Photo by John Russell
Predators J.P. Dumont, Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott gather to celebrate one of Nashville's seven goals against Los Angeles Saturday.
J.P. Dumont posted two goals and two assists and Steve Sullivan and Alexander Radulov each contributed three helpers as the Nashville Predators exploded for seven goals to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 7-0 Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Chris Mason stopped all 34 shots he faced and the Predators penalty killers shut down the league's third-ranked road power play nine times to record the shutout.
The win improves Nashville's record to 24-9-3 and gives the Predators a four-point lead over Detroit in the Central Division standings. Nashville becomes one of only four teams in the NHL with 50 points or more in the league standings. Now the team gets two days off for the Christmas holiday after winning six of its last seven games.
Dumont, David Legwand and Jason Arnott each scored twice in a game that was a convincing return to form after a lackluster 7-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the GEC on Thursday.
"[The players] knew that this game they had to have," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz, "not only for the two points but I think just to respond in the right way and show everybody, 'Hey, that was a little uncharacteristic of us. We've got to respond against a team that's pretty desperate in Los Angeles.' "
"We didn't come out the way we wanted to against Buffalo and we had a chance to come back here and play a really good game," Dumont said. "Now we can really go home and enjoy Christmas."
Arnott and Paul Kariya scored first-period goals to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. Kariya also missed a penalty shot midway through the opening period, during which the Predators were outshot by the Kings 13-10. Legwand converted on a second penalty shot awarded to Nashville in the middle period, then Arnott tallied for the second time on the Predators' third power play. Late in the second, Dumont registered two straight goals--one the result of some skilled hand-eye coordination and the other a 5-on-3 power-play conversion for Nashville--to put the Preds up 6-0 heading into the second intermission.
Legwand added his second goal of the night 5:14 into the third on a five-minute power play that was created when Kings goaltender Dan Cloutier took exception to Scott Hartnell being in his crease and began swinging at the Predators forward. Cloutier was ejected with a list of penalties that included a minor for roughing, five minutes for spearing and a game misconduct.
"You could just tell he was just getting frustrated," Mason said of his counterpart. "It just seemed like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I feel sorry for him. Being a goalie, everybody has been in those situations. Something happened to set him off. It's just unfortunate."
Backup Barry Brunt took over for Cloutier and relinquished the goal to Legwand after L.A. had killed four and a half minutes of the five-minute penalty. A shot by Predators captain Kimmo Timonen hit a Kings defender and was heading wide of the right goal post when Legwand corraled it. He pulled the puck from behind the goal line to his forehand and tucked it inside the post before Kings blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky arrived to try and break up the play.
The goal capped the scoring and Nashville finished the night three for 10 with the man advantage. "Obviously for us I thought special teams were huge," Trotz said. "The penalty kill was huge. Two-for-two in the first and then the first four minutes of the second period--or eight of the first 10:15--we were short-handed. [Mason] was real good."
Photo by John Russell
Predators goaltender Chris Mason salutes the fans during a curtain call for being named the game's first star. Mason recorded his third shutout of the season.
Trotz and a number of players singled out the play of defenseman Greg Zanon, who blocked a game-high five shots and was stellar during a five-on-three disadvantage in the third. "Zanon, I don't know how many shots he blocked himself," Dumont said. "We had guys that really excelled on the [penalty kill]. That's what we need. We're all here for a job. We all have a role and we have to make sure we do it right."
With the score 3-0, Zanon dropped to block a rebound shot from one of the Kings' strikers, rookie Anze Kopitar, saving what looked to be a sure goal with Mason out of position. "He stacked the pads there," Mason said with a chuckle. "I might have to try that one sometime. It seemed to work. He's doing a great job for us. Especially blocking shots. It's really big and it's a good skill that not a lot of guys can do. You sacrifice your body. He's done it all year."
Nashville took a 1-0 lead 5:45 into the game when Arnott finished off a long charge up ice by Sullivan. Dumont started the play, chipping an outlet pass off the left side boards near Nashville's blue line. The pass looked as if it was going to be intercepted by Kings defenseman Kevin Dallman but slipped by him and hit Sullivan in almost perfect stride. Sullivan carried the puck up the left side and released a backhander toward Cloutier from the bottom of the left face-off circle. The puck hit Cloutier then arced over the goalie and landed behind him in the crease. Arnott was storming the area and shoveled the loose puck into the open net for his ninth goal of the season.
Less than five minutes later, Preds defenseman Marek Zidlicky broke up an attempted chip-out by L.A.'s Sean Avery and sent the puck ahead to Kariya, who was behind the defense. Kariya broke in from the blue line and was fouled from behind, prompting the officials to award a penalty shot. With the clock stopped at 10:26, Kariya picked up the puck at center ice and skated in with his familiar right-to-left approach. His shot hit Cloutier in the leg pad and the game remained at 1-0.
Kariya did ultimately extend the lead to 2-0, scoring four minutes later. Legwand dropped the puck to Radulov on a Predators rush and Radulov ripped a hard shot from the left circle toward the far side of the goal. Cloutier got his left pad on the puck but sent a rebound to the right circle where Kariya kicked the puck up from his right skate to his stick. Kariya's high shot back across the net eluded Cloutier at 14:22 and gave Nashville a 2-0 cushion that they carried into the second period.
At 4:35 of the second, the Predators were awarded their second penalty shot. Visnovsky failed to keep a puck in Nashville's zone while the Kings skated on the power play. Legwand was the first to catch up with the puck at center ice and broke in alone before being interfered with from behind. On the ensuing penalty shot attempt, he skated straight in, took his time surveying Cloutier and then fired a shot through the goalie's five-hole to make it 3-0.
"I guess I watched Paul's a little bit and saw what he was doing and that was good," Legwand said. "It was good to get a goal. Barry just called me over [before the shot] and wanted me to relax and settle down and take a couple of deep breaths."
Arnott scored his second of the game and made it 4-0 at 9:45 of the second. With the Predators on the power play, Radulov and Dumont were cycling the puck in the right corner of L.A.'s zone. Dumont then faked a pass to the right point before sending a cross-ice feed to Arnott alone at the top of the left circle. Arnott's one-timed blast beat Cloutier cleanly.
"I thought the turning point was the [Legwand] penalty shot," Trotz said. "That was a point where we were short-handed. We got the penalty-shot goal but we also got the power-play goal. We only were on the power play for about 40 seconds. Special teams were real key in the first 10 minutes of the second."
Dumont scored the first of his two goals exactly six minutes after Arnott's second tally. A pass from Zidlicky deflected off of Kings d-man Brent Sopel and went directly to Dumont skating up the right wing. Dumont's shot hit the near post and fluttered back to him, at which point he swatted the puck toward Cloutier again. That shot rebounded off Cloutier and Dumont took another mid-air swing that sent the puck past the netminder and into the goal to make it 5-0 at 15:45.
"How many times are you going to shoot it, bat it, and bat it again into the net?" Trotz marveled. "That was a real nice goal."
"After practice me and Paul Kariya and Scottie Hartnell, we always try to tip pucks," Dumont said. "It's good to practice those things and it can be useful. It was for me tonight. I saw the puck there and I knew if I waited until the puck dropped I wouldn't have a chance to score so I just [decided to] go for it."
The Predators had a scare when, at 15:59, Michael Cammalleri hit Arnott in the face with his stick while going for the puck. Arnott dropped to the ice momentarily, picked himself up and headed straight to the Nashville locker room. He returned at the start of the third period but still suffered from some postgame razzing from his peers.
"He's got a little early Christmas present," Trotz said. "He's going to have a Christmas black eye, but he's fine."
"He's a big guy, he can handle it," Legwand said with a grin. "Put a little make-up on it and it will be fine."
Photo by John Russell
Predators defenseman Greg Zanon blocked a game-high five shots, including what looked to be a sure goal by L.A.'s Anze Kopitar in the second period.
The high-sticking incident put Cammalleri in the box with a double-minor, which grew into a 5-on-3 advantage for Nashville when Los Angeles was whistled for having too many men on the ice at 19:19. Just 35 seconds later, Dumont chipped in his second of the game to make it 6-0. Timonen started the play by easily carrying the puck into the middle of the zone and dishing left to Sullivan along the wall. Sullivan then wired a long pass to Kariya in the right circle and Kariya centered to Dumont. Dumont had staked out a position in front and merely had to redirect the puck in for his eight goal of the season.
In total, six Predators finished with multi-point performances Thursday. "Every night it's going to be hard to play against us," Dumont said. "You never know which line is going to go and score the big goals. That's the kind of hockey we want to play."
"When we get contributions through the whole lineup, I think it says a lot," Trotz said. "Not only contributions offensively but defensively. [The Predators] were more committed defensively to shut down [the Kings'] big guys. They still had some dangerous chances but for the most part we shut down their top guys tonight."
Mason, who recorded his third shutout of the season and the sixth of his career, was surprised to be named the game's first star. "It's nice not to let in any goals after letting in five in two periods last game," he said. "The main thing is winning. [With the score] 7-0, a shutout is probably secondary obviously to a win, but we'll take it."
Nashville returns to action on Tuesday with a 7:00 p.m. CT battle against the St. Louis Blues at the GEC. Tickets are still available and can be ordered by purchasing online, calling 615-770-PUCK, or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet.
NOTES: Nashville set a new franchise record for largest margin of victory in the 7-0 shutout win over Los Angeles. The Predators had previously beaten opponents by six goals on four occasions--most recently a 6-0 home win over Chicago on Feb. 4, 2006... The Predators are 6-1-0 in their last seven games... Nashville has scored at least one power-play goal in seven straight games (10-49)... The Predators did not allow a power-play goal on Saturday vs. Los Angeles and have now killed of 21 of their last 23 penalties... Nashville has outscored opponents 52-21 in the second period this season... J.P. Dumont posted a season-high four points (2g-2a) in Saturday's win vs. Los Angeles. It was his first four-point game as a Predator and the third of his career. Dumont has nine points (2g-5a) in his last seven games... David Legwand posted his third three-point game of the season with two goals and an assist on Saturday. Legwand's first goal was on a penalty shot, improving him to 2-for-3 on penalty shots in his career... Paul Kariya scored a goal and an assist and missed on a penalty shot vs. the Kings. Kariya leads the team in assists (26) and is tied (with Steve Sullivan) for the team lead in scoring (10g-26a-36pts). He has 10 points (4g-6a) in his last seven games and the Predators are now 9-0-0 this season when he scores... Sullivan had three assists vs. the Kings, giving him nine points (3g-6a) in his last six games. He is tied with Kariya for the team lead in points (11g-25a-36pts) and now has five three-point games this season... Jason Arnott scored two goals Saturday, giving him three tallies in his last two games. It was also Arnott's third two-goal game of the season... Chris Mason made 34 saves to register a career-high third shutout of the season Saturday. Mason is 6-1-0 in his last seven starts and has now started 15 straight games for the Predators (10-4-1)... Rookie Alexander Radulov notched a career-high in points/assists with three helpers Saturday night... Kimmo Timonen has a goal and four assists in his last four games... Defenseman Greg Zanon blocked a team-high five shots in Saturday's win.