The Nashville Predators kicked off their road trip in glorious fashion, shooting down the Winnipeg Jets and helping themselves out in the standings in the process. Fueled by goals from Ryan Johansen, Craig Smith, James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok, Pekka Rinne stopped all but one of Winnipeg's 27 shots on goal.
It wasn't always pretty, but this game saw so many things go right for Nashville in a time when they can't buy goals or saves. Take the lucky bounces, take the scoring, take the puck stopping, take the two points.
- When you're a struggling team with goalie performance issues, good starts are important. Same goes when you're playing against a struggling team with goalie performance issues. Winnipeg got the memo, Nashville didn't. Rookie Nikolaj Ehlers found an opening between Mattias Ekholm and Petter Granberg, and took a brilliant feed from Joel Armia right to Pekka Rinne. He didn't miss, and the Preds were down a goal four minutes into the game. Gee, sounds familiar.
- Speaking of Granberg, he got the call over Anthony Bitetto tonight. Defensive lapses like that aren't going to help him stay out of the press box.
- It's a good thing that Ryan Johansen is taking his vitamins and not getting infected with the malaise that is bogging down the Predators' offense. Joey tied the game with a power play marker, making it his eighth point in seven games for Nashville. More importantly, the goal was scored from multiple stabs at Connor Hellebuyck, with plenty of players trying to close into the crease. That's change worth believing in.
- The Preds owned the shot and attempts advantage after 20 minutes, but the period seemed as dull and uninspiring as ever.
- Oh, hey. No one told the away team that they are allowed to play in the home team's defensive zone during the 2nd period. The Preds were under siege for the first five minutes of the frame.
- It may have seemed like a lost cause after the Jets deftly broke up a 4-on-1 rush, but here comes Craig Smith resurrected from the nether realm. Smith had his stick cocked and ready to go from the instant he entered the zone, and rifled a beauty of a shot through Hellebuyck. Would you believe that's his 10th goal of the year? Some of you will be surprised the number is that low, while other will be surprised it's that high.
- Petter Granberg got his first NHL point with an assist on that goal. He would finish the night skating just shy of 15 minutes, with three hits, two blocked shots, 12 shot attempts for and 17 against.
- Confirmed chain wallet owner Mike Ribeiro may lead the team in assists (with another tonight), but his passing looks horrendous tonight. More than a couple of times this evening he's completely missed his teammates skating through the neutral zone, forcing the team to regroup. This is to say nothing of the several failed, lazy clearing attempts in the defensive zone. He's getting the points, I guess, but his GAF meter on the ice has been dropping steadily since the start of the season, it seems.
- There wasn't a lot of sitting back to cling to a lead in the third period, but the Jets did try like hell to tie the game. Unfortunately for them, James Neal's second job is to break hearts and induce tears. After a timeout, Johansen won an offensive zone draw right back to Neal who lasered a shot on goal. The puck bounced off the pipe, into Hellebuyck and into the net. How's that for a lucky bounce filled with hate?
- Calle Jarnkrok ices the game with the ENG. That's a wrap.
OTF's Super Duper Stars of the Game
- Craig Smith: A goal and plenty of scoring chances to hang his hat on tonight. Hopefully more goals and more scoring chances in the very near future will allow for plenty of hats.
- Pekka Rinne: Looked much better, and very close to the goaltender we're used to saying. Props, Big Guy.
- Winnipeg's Game Ops Music Chooser Person: Even through the broadcast you could hear the choice jams pumping. Desire by Ozzy? Such a deep cut to pull out, but it's glorious. Who thinks of that? Winnipeg's Game Ops Music Chooser Person, that's who.
Tweets of the Game
Cody Bass helping Mark Stuart up during their first-period fight. pic.twitter.com/pnieAsAmM3— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 22, 2016
Coach Peter Laviolette told me earlier he loved the way Craig Smith has played last couple games & he's due to get 1 through #GoodCallCoach— Lyndsay Rowley (@LyndsayRowley) January 22, 2016