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Preds Bounce Back, Play the “Right Way” in Win Over Kings

Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators

The urgency was there. The execution was there. And perhaps most importantly, the quality start was finally there.

After falling behind multiple goals in each of their last two losses, Viktor Arvidsson snapped home a shot during a 2-on-1 in the first period, and the Nashville Predators never trailed on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

On the surface the win is No. 40 on the season for Nashville and gives them a three-game season sweep of the Kings, but most importantly, the club is hoping that it serves as a foundation for improved play down the stretch of the regular season.

“[There are always points in the] season where you look to build off of something, or a certain game, especially late in the season like this, where you want to start getting on a roll, and tonight was one of those games for us,” Preds forward Craig Smith said. “It was great. When we go back and look at film, we’re probably going to see a lot of good thingsā€¦ so it was great to see.”

“It’s never a perfect 60 minutes, there’s another team over there that’s really good, so it’s never perfect, but to me it was a good game,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was a really steady road game.”

After Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne stopped Ilya Kovalchuk on a point-blank chance at one end, Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen countered with a 2-on-1 the other way, and Johansen fed No. 33 for his 29th of the season and a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

“It was a big one for us,” Preds forward Colton Sissons said. “We were not very happy with the previous effort, especially to the start of the game. It was something that we focused on, and I thought that was great tonight.”

The Kings tied the game less than three minutes into the second, but the Preds answered twice before the stanza was done. First, Smith buried a loose puck in front past Jonathan Quick to give Nashville the lead again, and just over two minutes later, Sissons potted his 12th goal and 27th point of the season – the latter of which tied a career high – to give the Preds a two-goal lead through two periods.

“I just dedicate myself to whatever I can do to help our team win,” Sissons said. “If that’s scoring a goal, getting an assist, I’m all for it. Whatever way I can help, I will.”

If anything, the second period served as a reminder that even after giving up an early lead, resiliency coupled with a killer instinct can go a long way. Just like the game wasn’t over when Nashville held a 1-0 lead, they also didn’t need a “here we go again” attitude after the game was tied. Instead, Smith and Sissons drove to the net and put Nashville ahead by two with a chance to close it out in the third.

The Predators held the home team to nine shots in the final frame, and Rinne turned them all aside. Twenty-five saves on 26 shots from their ace in net guided the Preds to a bounce-back victory on the road.

Not only did the Predators collect the victory on Thursday, they also did so the “right way.” At this time of the year, much is made about the process of the way they play the game, and that was just as satisfying as the two points.

“We played the right way, we played hard from the start to finish and there were very few lulls throughout the game,” Sissons said. “Everybody stepped up and did their job, and that’s great to see. We need a lot of that this time of year heading into the playoffs, so we’re really happy with the result.”

The Preds will now face their toughest test of the trip on Saturday night in San Jose, and they’d love nothing more than to build off of this effort with just 10 games to play in the regular season.

“There’s two ways of looking at it – you can look down and feel bad about yourself or pick up your crap and move forward, and I think that’s what we’re doing here,” Smith said. “We’re taking some ownership in our game from what happened in Anaheim, and that’s what this group has been good at the last couple years. We take ownership of the way we show up and the way we want to play, so we have to take this game forward and try to replicate it in San Jose.”

Notes:

Kyle Turris, Cody McLeod and Matt Donovan were scratched for Nashville on Thursday night.

Viktor Arvidsson has hit the 29-goal mark for the third consecutive season.

The Predators will head up the California coast on Friday ahead of their meeting with the Sharks in San Jose to conclude their road trip on Saturday night (at 9:30 p.m. CT).

Pete Weber’s Postgame Report