How the Predators broke free of their goalless drought
227 minutes and 39 seconds after Miikka Salomaki's goal in the second period of Nashville's 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks eight days ago, the Predators finally broke free via Mike Fisher's first period goal.
Out of all the shots, power plays, fancy passes and undeniable frustration, it was a very innocuous breakout and series of events that led to that goal. Most importantly, it was all started by a defenseman simply throwing the puck to the net.
Basics! Fundamentals! It doesn't matter what you call it, but it was the same sort of play that Nashville has been attempting for three straight games with no success.
After Ryan Ellis sent a shot from the point towards Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, Predators forwards Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher both did a fantastic job of getting low towards the net with Wilson in particular behind both opposing defenseman all alone.
The puck popped off Ullmark just enough where Wilson was able to take another swipe at the puck on the rebound opportunity.
That's where Fisher comes into play. The veteran center made his way to the other side of Ullmark while both Buffalo defensemen Jake McCabe and Zach Bogosian were caught watching Wilson and the loose puck.
A new rebound off Wilson's initial attack on the original rebound slides out to the right of Ullmark's right leg just enough to be in the perfect position for Fisher to have his best opportunity in three games to put the puck in the back of the net.
And he did not miss.
Like I said, it was a normal sequence of events that happens in many hockey games: defenseman puts the puck on the net, rebound emerges, forwards crash in and eventually convert rebound opportunity.
Luckily, it just went Nashville's way this time.
Slump-busting against the Sabres isn't exactly what you think it is
There are going to be plenty of people out there that will subscribe to the mentality that facing a team like the Buffalo Sabres when in the midst of a goal-scoring drought will help you break said drought.
That really couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, Buffalo played an overall better game than did on Wednesday night, but found themselves in the unenviable position that the Predators were in on Monday night against the New York Rangers.
The Sabres finished the game with 32 shots on net, including an extra 33 shots that were either blocked or missed, to Nashville's 20. Interestingly enough, Nashville is now 7-1-1 when being outshot by its opponent this season.
Best word to use to describe how the Predators played? Opportunistic. They cashed in on a fair percentage of their high-danger scoring chances against the Sabres, passes seemed to be crisper and the bounces just seemed to be going Nashville's way.
Realistically, though, that's what we've been saying for the last three games: things just weren't going Nashville's way. A lot of it does have to do with luck; you'd be lying to yourself if you thought hockey didn't.
Jon did a fantastic job putting all of the numbers in perspective on his write-up earlier in the week. If you haven't read it, make sure you do so.
Carter Hutton to the rescue?
With Pekka Rinne starting 18 of the first 20 games for Nashville and allowing 10 goals over his last three starts, it was time to give him a break in lieu of Hutton to give the backup some much-needed ice time.
Hutton is an average goaltender, but made plenty of fantastic saves to keep the Predators in it -- especially near the end of the contest where Buffalo was firing everything they could towards Hutton, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots.
He took a couple of shots throughout the game as well, including being flipped by Sabres forward Marcus Foligno.
Hutton has a 4-0-0 career record against Buffalo so it's not surprising that he was entrusted with the start for the Predators. Regardless, goaltending was one of the more important reasons Nashville earned the win tonight and Hutton definitely earned his paycheck.
Carter Hutton, Nashville Predators -- He didn't play out-of-his-mind, he didn't play lights-out, but he did exactly what he needed to: stop more shots than the opposing goaltender. Key saves in the final minute of regulation helped seal the deal for Hutton and the Predators who earned their first win in eight days.
Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators -- When you need a downright gritty goal in the hard areas, Fisher is usually the one that's able to find it. His goal nearly 14 minutes into the first period ended Nashville's drought after nearly 11 periods of scoreless hockey.
Cody Hodgson, Nashville Predators -- Gabriel Bourque's pass to set up his goal was a thing of beauty, however Hodgson was in the right place and right time to cash in on what turned out to be the game-winning goal against his former club.