After entering the third period down 2-1, the Nashville Predators scored four unanswered goals and kept their franchise-record, 12-game point streak alive with a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center.
The win gives Nashville 33 victories and 78 points overall, putting them six points ahead of Minnesota and eight ahead of Colorado for the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
“Sometimes those early games are tough to get into, but I thought our guys were sharp right from the start,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was a good team win. We knew what we were in for. We knew it would be a playoff battle, and it was good throughout.”
The Preds raced out to an early 11-5 shot advantage, but fell behind 1-0 when Blake Comeau crashed the crease and backhanded a puck home off Pekka Rinne’s right pad.
In the second period, with the puck loose in the crease, Filip Forsberg scooped the biscuit into the cage for his 14th tally in as many games. The 21-year-old currently sits second in the NHL in goal scoring since Nov. 27 with 26 tallies (Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is first with 30).
Colorado reclaimed a one-goal advantage before the second period horn following a Gabriel Landeskog one-timer, but it wasn’t long into the third before the Preds struck back again.
A play that started at the Nashville blue line, thanks to a Colorado turnover, saw Ryan Johansen collect the puck and motor all the way to the opposing net, drawing three Avalanche defenders with him. That allowed James Neal to follow up the play and deposit the puck for his 23rd of the season and a 2-2 score 63 seconds into the frame.
Then it was Mike Fisher, in career game No. 1,001, who picked up a loose puck in the slot and wristed home his ninth of the season for Nashville’s first lead of the afternoon and a goal that proved to be the game winner.
After Pekka Rinne and Co. withstood the final Avalanche push, Captain Shea Weber and forward Miikka Salomaki potted empty netters for a 5-2 final and two huge points in the standings, capped by a four-goal effort in the final 20.
“We were generating some chances; their goaltending was playing well, and we just talked about sticking with it,” Weber said. “Eventually, it was going to come.”
“Everybody came out in the third period and did a tremendous job,” Laviolette said. “[Rinne] was awesome; we had a little bit of trouble in the first five or six minutes of the third period, but after that I thought we got going and started playing some offense and it was good. They have a real good team, and sometimes you're going have to play good defense. We thought we did that tonight, and this was a good team win in a playoff-like atmosphere.”
All Lines Firing:
As of late, the Predators have received plenty of production from the line of Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith. That trio still did their part in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Avalanche, but the other three forward units got in on the act as well.
Forsberg, James Neal, Mike Fisher and Miikka Salomaki - each a member of a different line - all put the puck in the net, and nine different Preds forwards recorded at least one point on the afternoon.
“Every line can score,” Smith said. “You don't have to really worry. You can get goals from everywhere, and that's what we need.”
The top line of Neal, Ryan Johansen and Calle Jarnkrok tied the game 2-2 early in the third, an important tally, not only in the game, but for the trio as well, who haven’t found the back of the net with the regularity they’d prefer.
“You try not to dwell on how it's been lately; the three of us want to produce more offensively, but I think it's important we don't get away from our defensive game,” Johansen said. “We’ve been pretty solid there, so it was definitely nice contributing and hopefully we can use that now and get a spark here.”
No matter who is scoring, the spark of a 12-game point streak undoubtedly keeps the confidence high with only 16 games to go.
“It was very noticeable from my eyes the resiliency in the group tonight, which has made us very successful as of late as well,” Johansen said. “That was a huge win in their building, knowing the circumstances of the standings right now. We’re definitely going home feeling good about ourselves.”
Gif of the Game:
Shea Weber awaits Matt Duchene as he comes out from behind the Preds goal, and before the Avs forward can get a shot off the Preds captain sends him to the ice.
Peter Laviolette on his team’s performance to find a way to win in the third period:
“When you're going out there, you’ve just got to win a period. You don't think about the scoreboard or whether you're behind, if you can just win a period, you can win a game; you might get to overtime, you get a point, you get something.”
Captain Shea Weber’s empty-net goal was the 163rd of his career, tying him with Martin Erat for second all-time in franchise history in goals.
With assists on Saturday afternoon, Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro are both on four-game point streaks.
The Predators five-game road trip continues on Tuesday night when they travel to Winnipeg for the final time this season, before heading to Western Canada later in the week.
Filip Forsberg’s 26 goals since Nov. 27 have him in some elite company.
Infographic: Skiing Past the Avalanche