Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette called the win the strongest game he’s seen from his team in recent memory. The Preds put 41 shots on the Colorado net and goals by five different players gave the club their NHL-leading 41st victory of the season and sixth-straight at home.
“I thought our guys worked extremely hard in the offensive zone,” Laviolette said. “We were looking, moving and skating, the cycle was going, the forecheck, the attempts, and the quality chances were there, so for me it was a strong [effort from our team].”
Merely 3:57 into the contest, the Avalanche went up 1-0 after a Nathan MacKinnon shot deflected off of Roman Josi’s skate and into the net.
Calle Jarnkrok answered for Nashville 15 seconds later. The center stole the puck from Stefan Elliott at the Predators blue line then broke in alone on Semyon Varlamov, beating the goaltender upstairs off a deke.
“It was an important goal, of course,” Jarnkrok said of his tally. “It was nice to finally score again too, since it’s been awhile. It was nice.”
In the second period, Craig Smith gave the Predators their first advantage of the night with a slapper from the right circle; then Roman Josi recorded his 11th of the season off a face-off win to stretch the home team’s lead to two goals.
The Preds held a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes of play while keeping their opponent to just eight shots. The team’s offense, defense and speed was certainly clicking on all cylinders.
“I think it was a good effort, especially against a team that we knew was going to come with their best since they are kind of on their last legs trying to make the playoffs,” Preds Captain Shea Weber said. “We knew we were going to get their best, and I think we responded and did a good job.”
A dramatic, long-range, shorthanded goal later iced the contest in Nashville’s favor in the third period. Avalanche Head Coach Patrick Roy pulled his goaltender with over 11 minutes remaining and his team on the power play, but Eric Nystrom’s goal from the half wall of his defensive zone prevented any sort of miracle rally by Colorado.
After trailing 1-0 early, the Predators rebounded for their League-best 19th win after giving up the first goal. Goaltender Pekka Rinne recorded 18 saves for his 35th victory of the season.
Back in Action:
Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Laviolette said following Tuesday’s victory that he wanted Jarnkrok to sit because he was missing hustle and intensity in his game.
At 4:12 of the opening period, the center displayed all those attributes and more on a single play.
Jarnkrok blocked an Avs’ shot at his own blue line, then beat the defense up the ice before converting the play for his sixth tally of the campaign.
“I thought he was awesome,” Preds D-man Mattias Ekholm said of Jarnkrok. “Sometimes when you get scratched for a game or two and you get back, you’re a little [frustrated] and that’s what he showed tonight. He wasn’t happy with it, and I think he showed it the right way - on the ice. He played a heck of a game.”
“I thought Calle had an excellent game,” Laviolette said. “He certainly had jump and pop to his game. We were looking for that from him and he responded. The conversations we had with him were to be on the attack more, and it showed with that goal. To get us back to 1-1 as quickly as he did [was important]. His entire game was really strong.”
The 23-year-old Swede finished with four shots on net and the important goal that rallied Nashville almost immediately. Jarnkrok was open about the shortcomings of his recent play, but the forward deserves plenty of credit for responding with an evident improvement across three periods on Tuesday.
“I haven’t played good enough; I just tried to do everything today,” Jarnkrok said. “There are 13 forwards on the team and you have to fight for your spot every day. I guess that’s what I did today.”
As evidenced by Jarnkrok’s performance on Tuesday, simply the motivation to stay in the team’s lineup can be powerful. Ekholm said it can be an tool for the club’s forwards and defensemen.
“That’s a great thing that we have going here,” Ekholm said. “We’ve got like nine skilled defensemen, and at forward we have a lot of guys, and that builds a competitive edge at practice and in games. Everyone wants to be in the lineup and that can be a good thing. Everyone is battling hard to get in there and everyone that’s in there is trying to stay there.”
New Kids Back on the Block:
Exactly three weeks prior, they’d experienced it; but this time around was a lot different.
Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli were in Music City for a Predators game on Feb. 3 as members of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Twenty-one days later, the pair were back in Nashville - this time not as visitors - but as members of the Nashville Predators and skating in their first home game at Bridgestone Arena since being traded to the team last week.
“We were here a couple weeks ago and the fanbase was just unreal,” Santorelli said prior to Tuesday’s 5-2 Preds win. “I’m looking forward to tonight’s game 100 percent. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing in front of the fan base.”
Santorelli was drafted by Nashville in 2004 while Franson was also a Predators selection a year later. The pair had previously experienced a game at Bridgestone Arena with the 7th Man on their side and each expressed a desire to do so again.
“It’s very exciting to come back into this building and play in front of these fans,” Franson said. “They’re a lot of fun to play in front of and obviously we’ve got a good thing going here. I’m really excited to get back home here.”
Franson also explained the differences he’s seen between this Preds team and the previous ones he was a member of up until 2011.
“Probably depth, I think we’re a really deep team,” Franson said. “I think we’ve got guys that can contribute in many different ways and guys that are accepting of that. We’ve got guys that can score on all lines. I think that makes us tough to play against.”
During the Predators third win of the season over the Avs on Tuesday, Franson logged nearly 22 minutes of ice time and a blocked shot, while Santorelli skated over 14 minutes and put three shots on net (both players had a plus/minus rating of +1).
“It’s been good,” Ekholm said of playing alongside Franson. “I think it takes a couple of games to get going and I think we can be better too. It’s been a good start with him, and we’ve been winning and I think he’s a great player. He talks a lot out there and that makes it easy for me. Hopefully we can continue improving here as the games keep going.”
The Predators are now 19-12-3 when allowing the first goal, tops in the NHL. Nashville has won six-straight games at their own rink, holding a 26-3-1 record at Bridgestone Arena, the best home record in the League.
Tuesday marked the eighth occasion this season that the Preds have registered at least 40 shots on goal. Nashville’s five goals at home tied their season high in their own barn, the third time they’ve scored five at Bridgestone Arena on the campaign.
With a goal and an assist, Roman Josi now has 44 points on the season, tops among Nashville blueliners and good for third on the team, behind Forsberg and Ribeiro. The Preds are now 7-0-0 when Eric Nystrom scores a goal.
After tonight’s victory, the Predators have a nine-point lead on the Central Division over second place St. Louis and a six-point lead on the entire NHL.