The Nashville Predators put on their biggest offensive display this season, rolling over the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-4 after falling behind in the first period. Seven different Predators scored, and all but four skaters got at least one point on the evening as the Preds pushed their way into 5th position in the Western Conference.
Tonight marked the third time in the last 10 games that Nashville has won by a three-goal margin, after not doing so at all in the first 24.
Follow after the jump for the recap...
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Nashville's shutdown line, tasked with defending the line of St. Louis, Stamkos and Malone, instead provided the opening goal for the Preds; Joel Ward put the initial shot on net, David Legwand carried the rebound around behind the net for a wrap-around attempt, and Jerred Smithson ended up stuffing home the loose puck for a 1-0 lead.
While the Predators carried most of the early play, Steve Stamkos got loose through center ice at top speed a few minutes later, and was able to carry the puck wide on Shea Weber, ultimately slipping the puck through Pekka Rinne's 5-hole to tie the game 1-1.
From there, the penalty bug bit the Preds again, as in recent games against Detroit and Columbus. First, Smithson retaliated with a cross-check on that landed him in the box, and while that penalty was still being killed off, Ryan Suter clipped Vincent Lecavalier with an unintentional high-stick. Nashville survived the 5-on-3 but just as it expired, a slapshot from Lecavalier made it 2-1 Tampa Bay.
Early in the second, the shutdown line came through again for Nashville, with Legwand stuffing home a rebound of Ward's initial shot just 1:25 in. Just a couple minutes later, Nick Spaling recorded his 1st career NHL point, as he earned an assist for carrying the puck with speed into the Tampa zone, putting Niittymaki down to the ice with a backhand attempt, leaving a loose puck for Ryan Jones to stuff home. Jones has now scored in three consecutive games.
Patric Hornqvist then scored to push the lead to 4-2, taking a loose puck off a faceoff and firing a quick wrister from between the circles, a goal which chased Niittymaki from the game. Mike Smith came on in relief, but lasted just 28 seconds before J.P. Dumont tipped a Hornqvist shot past him to make it 5-2. Fans in the arena didn't even have time to chant "We Want Frosties" before the key 5th goal was scored.
From there, things just got steadily worse for the Lightning; a fight broke out behind the play between Shea Weber and Steve Downie, with Weber getting the best of the scrap by far. Dan Hamhuis added a long goal to make it 6-2, and another fight between Kevin Klein and Stephane Veilleux failed to generate any momentum for Tampa Bay.
By the end of two periods, the Preds had scored 6 goals for only the second time all season, on only 16 shots!
Smithson got into his own scrap to start the 3rd period, taking a roughing minor in addition to fighting with Ryan Malone, who had been roughing him up along the boards. On the ensuing power play, Kurtis Foster scored on a long slapshot to make it 6-3. The Lightning then crept even closer with 7:40 left in the 3rd, as Lecavalier converted on a breakaway chance for his second goal of the night, making the score 6-4. Fans began to sense trouble, as a blowout appeared to take on a new competitive angle.
Martin Erat got back on the scoresheet to make it 7-4 with 6:13 left, though, extending a remarkable night where the Preds scored a ton of goals, but no player got more than two points or four shots; this was a whole-team effort.
Pekka Rinne turned aside 30 of 34 Lightning shots, a decent night but not particularly outstanding. In the post-game press conference, Trotz offered up that he thought Pekka was a little too active on a couple of the Tampa Bay goals, when a little patience would have served him better.
Given the number of fights in the game, it was somewhat surprising to see Wade Belak skate only two shifts in the third period. Trotz noted, however, that the Lightning came out in the 3rd with good speed and tried to push the pace. They were determined to try and make a game of it, and for a few minutes, came uncomfortably close to doing just that.
Check back tomorrow morning for the advanced stats from tonight's game.