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Preds Top Plays in March

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators
The last full month of the 2014-15 regular season put plenty of great plays from the Nashville Predators on display, including Mattias Ekholm's unreal goal and Filip Forsberg's three-point game to help the Preds clinch the playoffs.

From two Nashville goals happening with Preds players on their knees to Pekka Rinne making saves for some of his NHL-leading 41 victories, March had a lot to offer on the highlight reel.

See below the definitive rankings of the Preds top goal, assist, hit and save of the month. 

Top Goal of the Month:

Mattias Ekholm splits the D, then scores from his knees: Just about everything surrounding Mattias Ekholm's goal against the Montreal Canadiens seems improbable in its nature. First, you have a defenseman cutting between two opponents. Then you have Ekholm falling to his knees, but maintaining possession. Finally, the 24-year-old fires the puck past Carey Price while careening toward the cage. The Swede's sixth tally of the season also broke a two-plus game shutout streak for the Habs' Price; because why not?

“That was amazing; that was a great goal,” Roman Josi said following the March 24 contest. “First he kind of chipped it to himself and then he fell [and scored]. That was sick, but we shouldn’t tell him too much, his head is probably a little too high right now.”

Top Goal of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Paul Gaustad bats puck out of midair: Paul Gaustad swatting the biscuit out of the air just before hitting Ben Bishop gets the most attention on this score, and it should (also note how Gaustad waits until the puck is right below the crossbar before connecting with it). But two plays made prior to Gaustad's goal by Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque shouldn't be overlooked. Watch as Bourque lifts the puck out of the Preds zone while on his backhand and under pressure. Next, Beck lays out Mark Barberio near the red line to open up a 2-on-1 chance between himself and Gaustad. Without that kind of execution from two-thirds of the fourth line, this goal never happens.

Best Pass of the Month:

Taylor Beck dishes to Matt Cullen from his knees: Ice hockey is traditionally meant to be played while upright on two skates. Taylor Beck decided to toss that mantra to the side while facing the New York Rangers back on March 2, with the Preds forward putting on a show of his own in the world’s most famous arena. After receiving a pass from Mike Santorelli in the left circle, Beck lost his footing, but didn’t lose control of the puck or his wherewithal to fire a pass off the backhand across the Rangers crease to a waiting Matt Cullen for a one-time tally. Cullen’s reaction after the goal says it all. Well done, No. 41.

Best Pass of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Filip Forsberg flips to Mike Ribeiro for the GWG: Already with a goal and an assist to this point against the team that drafted him, Filip Forsberg got the better of the Washington Capitals once more with his second period assist on Mike Ribeiro’s goal which eventually proved to be the game winner. Plus, it was pretty nifty. After receiving the biscuit behind the Caps net, Forsberg shakes off the body and stick-checking of Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik, emerging from the far corner to utilize a simple flick of the backhand to find Ribeiro, also a former Caps forward, to pot Nashville’s fourth of the afternoon. Forsberg has 36 assists on the season thus far, but the rookie’s dish to Ribeiro was undoubtedly one of the more impressive passes of his young career.

Hardest Hit of the Month:

Filip Forsberg backs it up on Eric Boulton: This isn’t the first time that Filip Forsberg has delivered a check to an opponent in this fashion, but Eric Boulton had no idea it was coming. For only 20 years of age, Forsberg has shown at multiple points this season that it’s quite difficult to knock him off of his feet, whether or not he’s in control of the puck. Boulton, a veteran of over 600 NHL games and almost 1,400 penalty minutes likely thought it would be an easy takeaway against the young Swede. Instead, it was the Islanders forward who found himself getting back to his feet.

Hardest Hit of the Month (Honorable Mention):

"The Tragically Hip" Anton Volchenkov:
The lost art of the hip check was brought back into the spotlight by Preds defenseman Anton Volchenkov against the Flames on March 29. Volchenkov, who had recently returned to the Preds lineup due to an injury to Shea Weber, made his presence felt one day earlier by dishing out four hits against Washington, then another four versus the Flames, including this instance on Calgary defenseman Deryk Engelland. Volchenkov has made a name for himself with his physical play throughout his career, and the 33-year-old showed that he can still throw his weight around when the time is right.  

Incredible Save of the Month:

Pekka Rinne preserves his shutout: Blanking any NHL team on the scoreboard doesn't come easily, and on March 21, goaltender Pekka Rinne needed a late-game, breakaway stop en route to his fourth shutout of the campaign. The 6-foot-5 Finn drifted back toward the goal line as Tyler Ennis came charging at the net. Once the Sabres forward made a deke to his forehand, Rinne threw out the right pad for the save.

Incredible Save of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Pekka Rinne stones Troy Brouwer: In the final minute of regulation against the Capitals, Pekka Rinne used a last-second pad stop to maintain the Preds one-goal lead. Already with two goals in the contest, Troy Brouwer's one-timer was turned away by the Nashville netminder with 31 ticks left in regulation. The game-saving stop ultimately helped lift the Predators to a 4-3 win that clinched their eighth postseason berth in franchise history. 

Was Mattias Ekholm's goal the score of the season? Should Filip Forsberg patent his "reverse check?" Let us know your thoughts and what your favorite play in March was in the comments below.

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