Nashville’s top line combined for six points as the Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 4-2 final on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. The victory extends Nashville’s franchise-record win streak to 10 games and gives them a three-game sweep in their season series with their California rival.
The Predators jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and although the Ducks had a push in the third period, Viktor Arvidsson sealed it with less than two minutes to play in regulation. It was a perfect result on a night that was a celebration from start to finish, with Predators General Manager David Poile honored prior to puck drop for becoming the NHL’s all-time winningest GM.
And then the Preds went to work, coming up with another win by the night’s end.
“Whoever we put in there, whatever the lineup is, whatever the lines are, they roll over the boards and they work hard,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s been really good. Tonight, wasn’t perfect, like I said. In the third period, it looked like maybe the schedule caught up with us, or just the amount of games or whatever. I thought we were a little flat in the third… But, if you work, you can win; if you win, you can gain some confidence. It all starts with work ethic.”
Just over five minutes into the opening frame, it was Craig Smith who potted his 21st of the season to give his club a 1-0 lead, and then with less than five minutes remaining in the first, Filip Forsberg laid a perfect pass on the tape of Ryan Johansen and the centerman tapped in his 10th of the campaign for a 2-0 advantage after one.
Most of the middle stanza went scoreless, but after a shorthanded breakaway opportunity for Colton Sissons was stopped by John Gibson, Austin Watson poked in the loose puck to put the Preds up by three after 40 minutes.
Rickard Rakell scored twice in the final frame to pull Anaheim to within one, but Arvidsson and the top line iced it, giving the Preds their 44th win of the season, 37 of those belonging to goaltender Pekka Rinne, now an incredible 18-1-1 in his last 20 starts.
To extend the win streak is satisfying enough, but to do it against an opponent that is arguably Nashville’s fiercest rival in the League?
“The amount of times we’ve played them and what’s been at stake, we always know it’s going to be a physical game,” Laviolette said. “We always know that we have to play tough in the battles. We talk about those things. I think our guys did a really great job.”
“There has been a lot of emotion within these games lately,” Johansen said. “We’ll get some much-needed rest tomorrow and heal up the bodies a little bit, and then come back Saturday. All that matters is that we got the two points.”
Gordie and Joey:
The Gordie Howe Hat Trick is named after one of the all-time greats, known equally for his toughness as he was for his offensive capability. A goal, assist and a fight in the same game earns a player the recognition, and Nashville’s top centerman hit the mark on Thursday.
Playing the Ducks tends to bring out the best in the Preds, particularly for Ryan Johansen on this occasion. Not only did Johansen tally the game’s second goal and assist on Arvidsson’s crushing blow, he also fought with Ducks center Ryan Kesler, a noted rivalry that developed during last spring’s Western Conference Final.
“He had a great game,” Laviolette said of Johansen. “What did he have – a fight, a goal, an assist? That’s old school. That’s old school.”
Although Johansen may not have fared particularly well in the scrap – “I’m not sure Gordie would’ve been very proud of that fight,” he joked – what mattered at the end of the night was the score, a number Johansen boosted twice with his excellent play that continues to reach playoff levels.
“He’s been playing great,” Smith said of Johansen. “He’s been a big, hard shot here. Tonight, he stepped it up and played a big role against a pretty good line. I thought he dealt with it great. The skill and the toughness that he brings to the game is huge.”
“This is a really special game for him,” Forsberg said of Johansen. “We all know the history that’s been going on. He just keeps showing everyone how good he is.”
Thank You, GMDP:
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Predators honored General Manager David Poile with a pregame ceremony for recently becoming the NHL’s all-time winningest GM with 1,320 victories.
Now sitting at 1,324 wins after the result against the Ducks, Poile was joined on the ice and in the crowd by a number of special guests, including his wife, Elizabeth, Predators Chairman Governor and Owner Tom Cigarran and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Watch the video tribute below and stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com in the coming days for much more on Poile’s astounding accomplishment.
Per Fox Sports Tennessee, Preds forward Craig Smith is tied with Patric Hornqvist for the most 20-goal seasons in Nashville franchise history (4).
Austin Watson is now tied for second in the NHL with three shorthanded goals this season.
Nashville has now won five consecutive home games against Anaheim and has earned at least one point in six of their last seven overall versus Anaheim.
Now halfway through their four-game home stand, the Predators will host New Jersey on Saturday night before finishing up with Winnipeg on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report