Special teams haven’t been the Predators’ friend very often this season, but on Friday night, success on the power play and a dominant performance from goaltender Kevin Lankinen played a big hand in a Nashville Predators win.
A power-play goal in each of the first two periods and a successful penalty kill early helped give Nashville a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on the road. The Predators earned their third win in a row and seventh in their last nine games. Lankinen was stellar between the pipes, making a career-high 49 saves. Matt Duchene led the team in points with a goal and two assists, and Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi had a goal and an assist each.
The Islanders came inches close to scoring the game’s first goal midway through the first period. The puck trickled past Lankinen and came to a standstill on the goal line as Lankinen reached out a skate in a last-ditch effort to keep it from sliding in.
Toronto said no goal, but the chaos of the play also included a delay of game penalty on Nashville. The Predators got an early kill and escaped the frenzy unscathed.
The Predators earned a power play shortly after, and they made the Islanders pay. Duchene fired a pass through traffic and across the offensive zone to find a wide-open Forsberg. The Swede one-timed it past Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin to put Nashville up 1-0.
A first period that was dominated by special teams play gave way to a much more wide open game in the early goings of the second period. But Nashville went back on the penalty kill near the midway point of the frame. However, the Predators received an early Christmas gift when Anders Lee went to the box for tripping in the middle of the New York power play.
Nashville found itself back on the power play when it drew another penalty just seconds after the Lee minor. Any concerns about limited real estate in the penalty box were alleviated when Roman Josi teed up a powerful shot from the point and blew it past Sorokin to double the Nashville lead. Nashville scored two power-play goals in a game for the third time this season.
Meanwhile, Lankinen was keeping the Islanders off the scoresheet at the other end. In addition to making some big saves on the penalty kill, Lankinen made several key saves after that almost-goal in the first. Arguably his biggest stop came in the second period, when he denied the Islanders a goal on a breakaway to preserve the 2-0 advantage, which Nashville carried into the third period.
The Islanders finally broke through midway through the third period after spending most of the game peppering Lankinen. Nashville’s penalty kill failed to clear the zone, and Mathew Barzal sniped one high past Lankinen’s glove to cut the lead in half.
The Islanders have had a knack for third-period comebacks this season, and with all of the pressure they were putting on the Nashville net, it seemed like they might at least force overtime. But Lankinen and the Preds shut the door the rest of the way to hang on for the win, despite more than doubling Nashville in shots.
Duchene completed his big night with an empty-net goal late in the third period to seal the win, and Mikael Granlund added another with less than a minute left in the game for good measure.