Beating the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on a Tuesday night in December doesn’t ordinarily qualify as a season-definer. But after consecutive sloppy losses in which they made a barrage of errors, the injury-riddled Nashville Predators weren’t about to question the outcome.
They’ll try for a second straight home win Thursday night in Bridgestone Arena against another sub-.500 outfit when the Vancouver Canucks come to town, looking for their second victory over Nashville in eight days.
Vancouver controlled the Predators on December 6 in British Columbia, establishing a 4-1 second-period lead en route to a 5-3 win. Playing without three top-six forwards and All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, Nashville didn’t offer the kind of detailed effort it has to have these days.
Its victory over Ottawa was a far more consistent performance. After ceding a goal 26 seconds into the game on a weak backhander from a fairly sharp angle, goalie Pekka Rinne shut down the Senators for the night’s remainder while his teammates produced a 36-26 advantage in shots on goal.
“We addressed a lot of things after the last road trip,” Rinne said. “I felt like tonight, we played with speed, got the pucks deep, turned a lot of pucks over and created chances. Our defense always plays a big role in our offense.”
While Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Kyle Turris might be on the shelf, the message from coach Peter Laviolette has remained the same: Attack. No matter who he ices for a particular game, he wants possession and scoring chances.
That might not make him unique among coaches, although there are a few who might be willing to go into a defensive shell and trust that Rinne could hold the fort while perhaps scraping out a couple of goals via counter-attacks or power plays.
“It was good to establish the zone time,” Laviolette said of Tuesday night’s win. “We moved the puck pretty well side-to-side, low-to-high, getting some shots and a redirect goal. It’s the zone you want to be in … at least you’re not playing defense.”
The Predators (20-10-1) regained first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference with the win, thanks to Colorado’s loss to Edmonton. They might regain the services of Turris, their second-line center who has been idle since November 25 with an undisclosed injury. Turris has been a full go in practice the last two days.
Vancouver (14-16-3) arrives in town playing some of its best hockey of the season. The Canucks rallied for a 3-2 win Tuesday night in Columbus, their third victory in a row, thanks to two markers in the last 3:04, by Elias Pettersson and Jake Virtanen.
It was only the eighth time in franchise history that Vancouver rallied to win in regulation after trailing with four minutes left in the third period.
“I don’t think we played our best hockey today, but we always believe in ourselves that we can turn it around and find a way to win,” Pettersson said.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom (11-9-3, 3.14 goal-against average, .901 save percentage) stopped 34 of 36 shots to earn the win. He’s expected to oppose Rinne (13-5-1, 1.91, .932).