Watson, Rinne put up highlights in Preds’ win
by Jackson Walsh
Amidst the loud hard rock atmosphere of Staples Center and the hyped up Kings faithful, the Predators’ tough physical play prevailed in a 4-3 win over Los Angeles last night. It was a game that saw a lot of hits, penalty minutes and turnovers and not many shots until the Kings made a late stab at the goal with the extra attacker.
Rinne stopped 26 of 29 shots in the contest, including one highlight reel save spinning back and sprawling on his legs to stop a point blank shot by Drew Doughty to preserve the 4-3 lead midway through the third period.
The Preds were only able to get 20 shots on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, but it was enough at the end of a long night. Roman Josi opened up the scoring on the power play with a ripping slap shot from the blue line through traffic. The Preds held tight to this goal, playing more than adequate defense including a strong penalty kill, until P.K. Subban lost a puck in the defensive zone that turned into a nifty breakaway goal for Adrian Kempe to tie the game at one.
Nashville kept building chances and were making Quick sweat. The defense protected Rinne like a little brother, blocking shots and clearing pucks keeping the aggressive Kings out of the pipes. Good old Scotty Hartnell would tally the next go-ahead goal off a rebound from Ryan Johansen to make the score 2-1. Later in the period, Austin Watson blasted another puck past the grasp of Quick through traffic off a well orchestrated 3-on-3 play from P.K. Subban and Mikka Salomaki to take a 3-1 lead.
The two goal advantage made the team feel safe going into the third period until Trevor Lewis received a feed in front of the net from Alex Iafallo to cut the lead to 3-2. However, it would not take long for Nashville to boost their lead or Watson to get back on the score sheet off a redirect from defenseman Ryan Ellis to pad the score at 4-2.The Preds saw the penalty box five times in L.A., against the league’s number one power play, but the Kings did not capitalize until Tyler Toffoli scored a power play goal 8:24 into the third period to cut the score to 4-3.
The Predators hung on for the victory in the final minutes. The Preds are now 5-0-3 in their last eight games in Los Angeles. The win, coupled with the Blues 6-3 loss to the Flyers, puts the Preds narrowly in second in the Central Division, one point behind Winnipeg. It may just be January, but it’s never too early to be scoreboard watching and looking at those standings in a race this tight. Next for the Predators is a nationally televised matchup on NBC against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night.