by Jackson Walsh
No Predators fan would argue that the game against Buffalo on Saturday night was very demoralizing. Seven goal on home ice, most following a controversial five minute major call on Scott Hartnell that led to a basket full of Sabres goals. But on this evening, an Easter Sunday dinnertime showdown in Tampa Bay, the Nashville Predators got back on track off a strong performance by Ryan Johansen and Juuse Saros to triumph 4-1 over the Lightning.
Right out of the gate, something was different about this team than Saturday night’s edition, the defense was a lot tighter and the shots on goal when they came were hard for Vasilevskiy to successfully track down.
The Predators would light the lamp first 7:50 into the first period when Ryan Johansen snapped a no look bullet wrister off a pass up the wing by Filip Forsberg with force past Vas. The goal was a thing of beauty in which Joey was showing pass back to Forsberg the whole way and Vasilevskiy bit on the fake and paid the price. Joey REALLY needs to shoot the puck more. 1-0 Preds.
Even though Tampa Bay had some scoring opportunities, and built up the shot count around Juuse Saros early in the game, they were unable to knot up the game. After Hartman drew a penalty in the second to nullify a Tampa Bay power play turning it into a 4-on-4, Filip Forsberg tallied a goal 2:46 into the second period beating the buzzer for full strength on the man advantage. He shot the puck and it deflected off Anton Stralman and it trickled through Vasilevskiy’s wickets. 2-0 Preds.
Next come the Lightning, who would finally get a goal 7:32 into the second period after have a handful of power plays and strong possessions in the offensive zone when Ondrei Palat skipped a soft shot bouncing off the pad of Saros into the net. 2-1 Predators.
Forsberg continued his strong outing, getting his second goal of the game unassisted 6:24 into the third period on an unassisted skate up the wing where he beat Dan Girardi one on one and cut up the slot to jam the puck in between the pads. 3-1 Predators.
Craig Smith added another goal 9:29 in the period off a beautiful pass from Mattias Ekholm down the offensive zone. No chance for Vasy, 4-1 Predators.
This victory over Tampa gives the Preds 24 road wins on the year, the most away from Bridgestone in franchise history. It was only a short year ago that a road game seemed like an automatic loss, but this 50-win team can take on anybody anywhere.
The one thing the boys need to improve on is penalties, but the penalty kill on the other hand has been legit. The Preds have gone 82.2% on the kill so far this season, which is 7th best in the NHL and they went 0 out of 5 tonight for the Bolts, pretty impressive outing.
Still in the sunshine state Tuesday, against the Panthers. A win against the Panthers would clinch the the top spot in the Western Conference and guarantee home ice advantage throughout the Conference Championship game.
Photo credit: Jason Behnken/AP