Nashville, TN -- The Nashville Predators (6-1-0) put in a complete 60-minute effort to earn a victory on Thursday nightas they bested the Anaheim Ducks (1-4-1). They now have their second three-game win streak of the season.
Notching five goals from five separate players in a 5-1 win, it was the most offense Nashville has generated without the help of a shootout.
Austin Watson making things happen in the lineup
Watson has played in four of Nashville's seven games this season and has continued to improve in each subsequent outing. Not only has he reinvigorated the offensive capabilities of the bottom six for the Predators, but he's starting to prove his importance as one of Nashville's better forecheckers.
"He kept getting better and better as the game went on," said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. "His play to [Nystrom] was outstanding. He's a good penalty killer too. He's not getting much of the rotation right now, but he's a good, smart player."
Thursday night was another example of how important a piece of Nashville's roster he's been. Perhaps it will help boost his case for more sustained playing time, as he continues to swap spots with fellow forward Viktor Arvidsson.
Mind you, this isn't me attempting to silence the pro-Arvidsson crowd -- as I think he's an exceptional young player myself -- however Watson has been the more impressive of the two.
Keeping with the play early in the second period, Watson took a loose puck through the neutral zone, poked it past a diving defender after leaping past him, brought it down the ice and fed a charging Eric Nystrom to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.
"We wanted to bring a lot of pace to the game," said Watson. "Play physical. Our job was to make it hard for the other team. Sometimes we'll get rewarded like that with a nice goal."
Just minutes later, Watson met up with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf on the boards and delivered one of the most crushing checks I've seen in quite a while.
"I think he might have been a little off balance there," Watson noted. "I think he was coming to hit me and it kind of reversed on him a little bit. It's nice to get a couple of bumps in and play physical against that line, they're so dangerous.
"To be able to wear them down a little bit physically and hopefully get them a little frustrated, that's what we were trying to do."
He's been used to a top six role while playing with the Milwaukee Admirals, but Watson has adapted well to every situation that Laviolette has thrusted him into.
Where's Mike Ribeiro? Oh, he's right here...
In Thursday's edition of Martel's Musings, I wrote about the invisibility of Ribeiro in the early goings of the season.
Well, either coincidence is a hell of a thing or someone passed along the message because Ribeiro had himself a night against the Ducks.
Starting with the primary assist on Ryan Ellis' second period home-run knock to make the score 2-0, Ribeiro converted on the rarely-seen "since the pass didn't work, I'll just shoot it and hope for the best" play to up the score to 3-0.
Nashville's best hope for continuing its success this season relies on the plentiful contributions from both Mike Fisher and Ribeiro. Especially without a truly elite center coming from any direction anytime soon.
Both Fisher and Ribeiro have the potential to swap at any given time in Laviolette's system, which makes it even that more important that tonight Ribeiro was finally able to re-kindle the chemistry that he shared with Colin Wilson and Craig Smith last season.
"We did that last year too," said Ribeiro. "I started with [Neal and Forsberg] and switched up with them. Other times when lines aren't working, I think Lavy likes to switch it up. It'll take a few games to adjust.
"I still think we had a slow start again for our line, but we just have to keep working. We were able to score on the power play. We still know we can play better, but the good thing is we were able to score some goals and create a little bit more offense."
Putting the foot on the gas and not letting up
One of the biggest problems I've continually harped on the Predators about has been their inability to truly salt away a game. Regardless if it's by a single goal or a handful, Nashville has always had trouble with driving the metaphorical nail through the coffin.
That's why tonight's win over the Ducks could be one of the more important regular-season victories in quite some time.
Not only did the Predators secure their first regular-season win over the Ducks since December 10th, 2011, but it came while dominating all 60 minutes of play on the ice. Three of Nashville's four lines factored into the scoring, while all four neutralized Anaheim's attack plans.
"[Anaheim] played hard against us, but we matched up the work ethic," Ribeiro said. "This week is a big week for us with big teams coming in. I think we showed up again today. We played smart with the puck. I think [Gaustad's] line did a great job against those big guys."
"When everyone comes and plays, we're a hard team to beat."
All in all, it was Nashville's most complete game of the season. Coming against a pre-season Stanley Cup favorite who have struggled out of the gate, the Predators looked all the more dominating.
"I've liked the way we've played for a few games now," said Laviolette. "Even the first three games it wasn't all bad, just a little more inconsistent with what we were doing.
"For the last four game, I think there's been more of an attack to our game. Guys have seemed a little bit sharper with their skating and their passing. Both zones, offensively and defensively, we played a little better. We got to keep getting better and keep improving."
Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators -- After missing Tuesday night's game against the Lightning, Ellis came back with a vengeance. Blasting home a shot in the second period and potting two assists along the way, Ellis' knee seemed to be just fine.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- Rinne was one save short of his second shutout of the season, only to have it abruptly end via a Jiri Sekac power play goal midway through the third period. Yet, his 27 saves on 28 shots -- most coming from point-blank range -- were good enough to secure Nashville's second three-game winning streak of the year.
Austin Watson, Nashville Predators -- I battled with this choice because there were so many great options to receive a star ranking in tonight's game, however Watson was head-and-shoulders one of the most impressive forwards on Thursday night. One assist, one hell of a check and being a nightmare for Anaheim to deal with earned him this honor.