Carter Hutton stopped all 22 shots he faced and Calle Jarnkrok scored twice, as the Nashville Predators topped the Florida Panthers by a 5-0 final on Saturday night at BB&T Center. The victory gives the Preds 26 wins and 61 points on the season as the club finished off the Fathers Trip in style.
“Last night, it was frustrating leaving there, but we had to put that behind us,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s difficult, you wake up in the morning and everyone is not feeling good about it. I said this morning that you have to put it behind you and move forward pretty quick because the points were important tonight. We were ready right from the start and everyone played a strong game for 60 minutes.”
The Preds got started early when Calle Jarnkrok took a pass from James Neal off the rush and beat Roberto Luongo over the glove for a 1-0 lead at 6:18 of the opening frame. Jarnkrok’s 10th of the season carried a secondary assist from defenseman Anthony Bitetto, his first career NHL point.
Roughly two minutes later, Austin Watson found Miikka Salomaki in the circle, before the Finn rifled a shot over the left shoulder of Luongo for his third tally on the campaign and a 2-0 lead.
James Neal gave the Preds a three-goal lead when he potted his team-leading 21st of the season by tapping a puck in on the power play. A Mike Ribeiro shot was tipped on the way in by Ryan Johansen before the puck landed at the stick blade of Neal, a play that gave Johansen his 16th point since joining the Predators.
Shea Weber provided the Preds further insurance with a blast on the power play for Nashville’s second with the man advantage of the evening and a 4-0 lead at 7:59 of the third. The tally was Weber’s 15th of the season and his 11th on the power play. Jarnkrok then added his second of the night and first career shorthanded goal, when he finished off a Roman Josi feed at the netmouth for a 5-0 lead.
Not to be forgotten, Hutton made a number of key stops throughout the night for his fourth career shutout, stifling the Panthers time and time again, including a sliding blocker stop on Jonathan Huberdeau off a 2-on-1 opportunity.
“We try to play that where we force him to make a pass, the d-men usually lie down there; It got underneath him tonight,” Hutton said of the save. “I read the pass and tried to extend as far as I could. I was able to get my blocker on it, and at that point in the game, it’s not about how many saves you make but how timely they are. From there we’re able to roll from there and get a couple huge power-play goals that put the nail in the coffin.”
Point No. 1 for No. 2:
It might only be a secondary assist, but it’s still worth enjoying for Anthony Bitetto. The Preds defenseman’s helper on Calle Jarnkrok’s first-period goal was his first career point in the NHL. The assist came in career game No. 18 for the 25-year-old blueliner, a solid victory for him and his teammates.
“It’s definitely a milestone, your first NHL point," Bitetto said. "More importantly, we got the win tonight though. We had a tough night last yesterday with the late goal that didn’t go our way. But it ends up nice that we got three out of four points on the weekend.”
As the final horn sounded, Bitetto dropped the mitts with Alex Petrovic to cap off a night in which he registered six hits and was a noticeable presence throughout the game. Bitetto and his teammates also righted the ship after a tough overtime loss the night before against Tampa Bay, perhaps utilizing that frustration and channeling it into a solid 60-minute effort.
“That was the mindset coming into tonight; last night was over,” Bitetto said. “We regrouped this morning and came out firing. That’s exactly what the game plan was and it worked.”
With his goal in the first period, Calle Jarnkrok now has points in four of his last five games (3g-1a). Ryan Johansen also has points in four of his last five (1g-5a), courtesy of his assist on James Neal’s goal. Neal’s marker also gives him 21 goals in each of his first eight NHL seasons.
Carter Hutton is 3-0-0 with a 0.66 goals-against average and a .987 save percentage in his last three outings, including two shutouts.
Roman Josi recorded two assists on the evening, extending his team scoring lead to 42 points (11g-31a)
Austin Watson drew back into the lineup for the Preds on Saturday, rendering Cody Bass a healthy scratch. Watson recorded an assist on Miikka Salomaki’s goal.
Nashville returns home to host the Dallas Stars on Monday night, before the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings visit Bridgestone Arena later in the week.