Fiala, Bonino, Jarnkrok Lead Preds to Fifth Consecutive Win

Kevin Fiala

Kevin Fiala scored twice and the Nashville Predators defeated the Florida Panthers, 4-3, on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result extends Nashville’s win streak to five games – the first time they’ve posted multiple five-game win streaks in the same season since 2014-15 – and a lead in the Central Division once more.

Not only did Fiala contribute offensively, but his entire line – made up with Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok – were all over the scoresheet. It’s just another example of different players stepping up over the course of Nashville’s win streak, a group doing whatever it takes to find two points.

“Just the character in the room and the people who are stepping up, whether it be Nick Bonino or Calle Jarnkrok or Colton Sissons or [Scott] Hartnell chipping in goals or [Anthony] Bitetto and [Matt] Irwin coming in and playing big minutes for us – it’s just that mindset that somebody has to step up and do it,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think through the five games, that’s probably what catches me the most is that through a little bit of adversity our guys handled it really well.”

It took just 36 seconds into the contest for Fiala to pot his 12th of the season, beating Florida goaltender Harri Sateri, who was making his first NHL start. Florida came back to take a 2-1 lead before the opening frame was over, but Nashville didn’t waste much time getting back on the board.

Nick Bonino tallied his seventh of the season at the 1:23 mark of the middle stanza, and that was followed by a second strike from Fiala and then a blast from P.K. Subban for his 10th goal and 34th point of the season to tie him with Filip Forsberg for the team lead in scoring.

Florida got one more in the third to make it interesting down the stretch, but Pekka Rinne finished the night by making 37 saves in total for his 23rd win of the season and the 292nd victory of his career, and to keep the current home stand perfect thus far.

“Just being at home – obviously in the first half [of the season] we were on the road a lot – we wanted to take advantage of being at home, being able to sleep in your own bed and see your family and stuff like that,” Subban said. “So, we’ve just been managing our bodies and resting. There are no excuses for us to not come out with the right effort, and I feel like we have done that every game at home.”

The win sets up quite a matchup on Tuesday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning – atop of the NHL standings – come to Bridgestone Arena. And as far as the Preds are concerned, if they play to the level they know they’re capable of attaining, a win against anyone in the League is possible.

“We have a good team coming in this week,” Subban said. “We have to prepare. We have to get tons of rest and just get prepared. They’re one of the top teams in the League. We’re at home and we want to make sure we come out with the right effort again.”

Triple the Fun:

Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok had themselves a night.

Both Predators forwards – skating on a new-look line with Kevin Fiala, who had two goals of his own – created offense all night long and were rewarded for their efforts.

It was the first multi-point effort for Bonino in a Preds sweater, while Jarnkrok notched his first-career, three-assist game and just his second three-point outing.

“I’ve been waiting for a game like this for a while,” Bonino said. “I think a lot of the times I’m passing, and it just hasn’t gone in the net. It gets frustrating, but as long as I’m winning faceoffs, blocking shots, and contributing in other areas, you can’t get too down on yourself. And tonight, obviously, it’s nice to see the puck go in a few times.”

For the trio being together for the first time, it sure didn’t seem like it. Fiala credits that to the skill level and versatility of both Bonino and Jarnkrok – both centers by trade – but players who can slot anywhere in the lineup.

“Those are two-way players: great defense and great offense, and they work hard,” Fiala said. “I think if you work hard, you get so many more chances. You’re going to get the puck back and create more chances, and that’s what we did today.”

After Saturday’s effort, that group is likely to find themselves together once more on Tuesday. And if their first outing was any indication, there may just be a little something special there.

“Getting Kevin [on that line] really helped,” Laviolette said. “Kevin’s on a roll right now with regard to offense. It seems like whatever line he goes on, that line is a pretty good line. Even last game, when he was with Johansen, I thought he did a good job. I think guys are moving around because of the absence of Filip [Forsberg]. We’re trying to put together lines that we think can score. Tonight, the line was a really good line. I thought Calle had a terrific game as well, so that line was dynamic offensively for a lot of their shifts.”

Notes:

Prior to Saturday’s game, forward Viktor Arvidsson was activated from Injured Reserve and forward Frederick Gaudreau was assigned to AHL Milwaukee.

Kevin Fiala had his first multi-goal game of the season.

Nick Bonino is now just one point away from 200 points in his NHL career.

Nashville will conclude their five-game home stand on Tuesday night when they host the League-leading Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena before jetting off to New Jersey on Thursday for their final game before the All-Star Break.

Pete Weber’s Postgame Report