Five different Predators found the back of the net as Nashville defeated the Colorado Avalanche by a 5-2 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result gives Nashville their eighth consecutive victory over the Avalanche and 11 wins on the season, six of them coming at home.
After a frustrating loss on Thursday to Minnesota, a bounce-back effort from the Preds was on display on Saturday, with the penalty kill playing a starring role and contributions coming in throughout the lineup.
“It was a good night,” Predators defenseman Anthony Bitetto said. “We can’t win games [taking too many penalties]. We’re fortunate enough that Pekka Rinne played one heck of a game. I think it’s a good win after coming off that loss in Minnesota.”
After spending a majority of the first period shorthanded, including a successful kill on a five-minute major, Nashville got a power play of their own before the period was out and Craig Smith poked a shot home for his fourth in six games and seventh of the season.
Colton Sissons and Bitetto gave the Preds two and then three tallies before the second period was out, and Mattias Ekholm – who scored in his third consecutive game – and Viktor Arvidsson put the Preds up by five in the final frame. Colorado tacked on two late, but it hardly mattered as the Preds collected their sixth win their last seven outings.
“I think a lot of guys are chipping in,” Ekholm said. “Everyone wants to play. I think the competition is really good in here, and everyone is playing well, and that helps each other out. If you have a bad game, you know you have to be on your toes for the next one because guys are stepping up, guys are scoring, so everyone has to play on their top level every game and every night. That’s just the name of our team right now.”
Long Island Special:
It finally happened.
“It’s about time, what is it, three years now?” defenseman Anthony Bitetto laughed while discussing his first goal at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s always nice to score, whether it’s your 700th goal or it’s your second, it’s always fun to score, for sure. But my job is to play defense, and that’s kind of been my focus the last couple games. That’s what I take pride in, but the goal is a little extra bonus tonight.”
Bitetto’s goal on Saturday ended up being the game-winning tally, the first in that category for the blueliner, and just the second of his career. Not relied upon to put the puck in the net, it’s even more special when a player like Bitetto is able to do so with his teammates recognizing just how important he is to the club.
“That was great,” Rinne said of Bitetto’s goal. “He works so hard, and he’s always ready to go. I knew it was a big goal too; it was the third goal, so that’s a relief when that went in. I was happy for him, and he’s playing really well and working really hard to stay in the lineup.”
“He’s been waiting for his opportunity, and he’s been making the most of it,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Bitetto. “Tonight, he skated so well with the puck. He can get himself out of trouble. He has a good shot and he sees the ice pretty well. He can play a physical game. He has a lot of assets that are really good for our club. He’s getting an opportunity now to try to settle into that position and make a case for himself. He’s doing a good job.”
Solid defense led to plenty of offense.
Four kills in the first period – including a five-minute major – and three more in the second saw the Preds go a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill against the Avs, matching their highest single-game total of the season.
The Predators blocked a total of 18 shots on the night and received 29 saves from Pekka Rinne, some of the best coming while down a man.
“When you have Pekka Rinne back there, your penalty kill is going to be good regardless,” Bitetto said. “He’s dominant. It’s a pleasure playing in front of him, and I think that’s a huge part of it.”
“[The penalty-killers] were a difference maker in the first period,” Laviolette said. “It allowed us to stay in that game. I thought Peks was really good; he made some big saves, early, too. He has to be our best penalty-killer, and I thought he was. I certainly had confidence in the penalty-killers and in the penalty kill itself.”
Nick Bonino recorded an assist in the win, his first helper as a member of the Preds.
The Predators continue their three-game home stand when they welcome the Winnipeg Jets to town on Monday, followed by the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report