Don’t call it a comeback.
Okay, call it a comeback, because that’s exactly what it was.
The Nashville Predators found themselves down 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Then they pulled off a come-from-behind win that quite possibly could be the turning point in their season.
“That was the Predators,” forward Filip Forsberg said. “That is how we want to play, that’s how we’ve been playing for the last few years since I got here. I’ve seen this team do so many good things like that and obviously that’s something we’ll build on for sure.”
It was the first time the Predators overcame a three-goal deficit at home since December 2011 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Reaves. Then just 1:49 into the second period, Brad Hunt took the air out of the Bridgestone Arena crowd, tallying a power play goal – exiling the Predators to a three-goal deficit.
But then something happened. The scoreboard read 3-0 Blues, the crowd was deathly silent, and the Predators somehow began scoring at will.
“Once they scored that third one, we took off,” center Ryan Johansen said. “Something triggered and we were unstoppable. That’s the best I’ve seen this team play since I’ve been here. Literally you can go through our lineup and everybody was doing some great things out there.”
James Neal ignited the comeback with his 12th goal of the season, just two minutes after the Blues delivered - what appeared to be - a knockout blow to the Preds.
Not to be outdone, Filip Forsberg broke an eight game goal-scoring drought, netting his third goal of the season, sending the Preds to the locker room down only 3-2 at the second intermission.
“From the first goal up until James scored his, (we) just didn’t respond very well to that,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They took it to us a little bit. I think when it swung back the other way – and it was clearly evident – was James Neal’s goal just to get us on the board and get us going in the right direction. From that point, I thought our guys did an excellent job of playing the way we want to play.”
Coming out of the locker room with a more manageable 3-2 deficit, Ryan Johansen wasted no time tying things up just 3:04 into the third period. Mike Fisher followed that up with his sixth goal of the year, giving the Preds their first lead of the game.
Nashville didn’t stop there. About a minute after Fisher scored, Mike Ribeiro put the Preds ahead 5-3 - much to the delight of the increasingly-loud Bridgestone Arena crowd.
“Oh, it felt like a playoff game,” Johansen said. “During a couple of the TV timeouts there I needed some earplugs there; my ears were getting sore. That’s a lot of fun, that’s what you enjoy so much about playing in the NHL is the atmospheres and coming into your home building and working for your fans.
“I don’t know what triggered it but we just started rolling, one after another, and all the lines with everybody doing the right things. It’s pretty evident that when we’re all on the same page and sticking to the game plan we’re a pretty darn good hockey team.”
Added Laviolette: “You could tell, not only for us, but even our fans, when Neal’s goal went in it just brought a whole lot of energy into the building. They really got going; that gets us going as well.”
This was a win the Predators desperately needed for several reasons. Filip Forsberg was able to bust out of the goal-scoring purgatory that he has spent much of 2016 in. The team now has a top line that ranks right up with the best in the league.
They also kicked off a three-game home stand with a win against a division rival, earning two big points, and boosting a team’s confidence which - quite frankly - seemed to be lacking in that department.
“I think we really needed that one,” Johansen said. “We really needed a character, comeback win like that and hopefully we will be able to use that moving forward and instill confidence and knowing that we’re always in a game.”