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The Mystery of the Preds' Strong Second Periods

Preds Pace NHL in Second-Period Goal Differential but Want to Round Out Overall Game

by John Glennon @glennonsports / jg1sport@aol.com

One of the great mysteries of this NHL season is a local puzzler: What exactly transpires in the Predators locker room between the first and second periods of games?

Is it something the players eat or drink? Is it something the coaching staff says? Are secret sacrifices being served up to the hockey gods?

Whatever goes on - and it's probably safe to rule out option three - appears to turn the mere mortals of the first period into superior second-period scorers on a regular basis.

Consider the evidence: The Predators not only lead the League in second-period goals with 90, but also top the NHL with a plus-31 goal difference during the second 20 minutes.

Another way of looking at the numbers? The Preds' 90 second-period scores this season are nearly four times as many goals than they have in the first period (25), and 30 percent more than they've posted in the third period (69).

"I can't explain it," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the phenomenon. "I can only tell you the messaging that goes on inside the room, it's the same going into the game as it is going into the second period. We don't harp more on defense in the second period. We don't try to accelerate the offense in the second period. So I just can't explain it."

Predators fans got a taste of the inexplicable on Monday night during Nashville's 3-1 victory over Arizona.

Video: ARI@NSH: Ellis rips scorching one-timer past Smith

The Preds were defensively sound, but offensively sluggish, during a scoreless first period, mustering just four shots on the Coyotes' goal. But Nashville looked like a completely different team in the second period, piling up 18 shots, controlling puck possession and outscoring the Coyotes 2-0 en route to the win.

"I can't say [the first period] was the most fun for the fans," Preds forward Filip Forsberg said afterward, "but we kind of picked it up along the way and got two really big points."

If there's any negative attached to the Preds' season-long, second-period scoring spree, it's that it sometimes comes about due to an increased sense of urgency. The Predators haven't always gotten off to the kind of starts they want, allowing the game's first goal in 42 of their 72 contests.

"It's like a lot of times, the first period is like a wake-up call," Preds goalie Pekka Rinne said. "But then in the second period, we come out flying and take it to the other team."

The good news for the Preds, as noted by Rinne, is that Nashville has shown the resiliency - and the firepower - to be able to bounce back from occasional slow starts.

Forsberg, for instance, is tied for first in the NHL with 14 second-period goals. He notched an entire hat trick in the second period against Calgary earlier this season. Viktor Arvidsson's 11 second-period goals are tied for fifth in the NHL. Ryan Johansen's 19 second-period assists are third in the NHL.

Video: CGY@NSH: Forsberg erupts for three goals in 2nd

That high-scoring trio is part of the reason the Predators have mounted some memorable rallies this season, perhaps capped on Feb. 12, when Nashville - trailing Dallas 3-0 - scored five straight goals to post a 5-3 victory.

Overall this season, the Predators have overcome multiple-goal deficits to win six times, trailing only defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers in that department. Just for comparison's sake, Calgary - the Preds' opponent on Thursday - is winless in 26 situations this season when trailing by more than one goal.

"This is a team that struggled to [come back] at times in the past," said Stu Grimson, the Preds' television analyst on Fox Sports Tennessee. "But I think they've really matured a lot in that respect. They're a little more dynamic up front and the defensemen continue to contribute offensively. I think just from a pure confidence point of view, they've matured to the point where, 'Hey, we've got the game to come back in these games where we might start flat or get down.'"

With the playoffs on tap in just a few weeks, the Predators have proven that their second periods are first rate.

The challenge now is to make sure their first periods are second to none.

"I'm not sure why we've been so much better in the second period," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "It gives you some comfort knowing you've done it before. But we need to see if we can play like that for a full 60 minutes."

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