An injury-depleted Predators lineup earned a victory in Los Angeles on Saturday night, as Nashville played simple, focused hockey and emerged 4-1 winners. The road win snaps a three-game losing skid for the Preds and gives them their first victory of 2020.
The Predators were without some big pieces on Saturday night – Ryan Ellis (upper-body injury, Injured Reserve), Matt Duchene (illness) Colton Sissons (lower-body injury, Injured Reserve) and Dante Fabbro (upper-body injury, day-to-day) – but they found a way to win the first and third periods and claim two points.
“It was really good,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the effort. “We played a really strong first period. The second period, we worked hard, we made some decisions with the puck that gave them some opportunities, but I thought in the third period we went back to that mindset of just playing a smart, simple game. Guys worked hard and competed hard for 60 minutes, and we got a big road road win with some guys missing out of the lineup.”
Just as they did on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl, the Preds had a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes, and the first tally of the night came courtesy of Rocco Grimaldi, who collected his own rebound to beat Jack Campbell midway through the first.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Grimaldi said. “It’s our first one since the Christmas break, so especially the way we lost last game… it was a tough pill for us to swallow being up 2-0 and losing. We were hungry to come in and get two points tonight.”
With less than a minute to play in the opening frame, Preds Captain Roman Josi went to work. Already with an assist on Grimaldi’s goal to extend his career-high point streak to nine games – a mark that tied former Nashville Captain Shea Weber for the longest streak by a defenseman in franchise history – Josi went full spin-o-rama at the L.A. blue line, before driving to the net and laying a beautiful backhand pass right on Ryan Johansen’s tape. The Nashville centerman did the rest to give his club a two-goal lead and a huge boost going into the intermission.
The effort from Josi left his teammates in awe.
“Ridiculous,” Grimaldi laughed. “I don’t know, ridiculous That’s crazy.”
“It was awesome,” Laviolette said. “He’s been doing that for the whole year, and it wasn’t just that play. He was attacking the offensive zone whenever he saw a seam or saw a crack and just pushing the pace offensively. But it was a beautiful, beautiful play all the way from the blue line in.”
In the second, the Kings fought back, and Alex Iafallo put Los Angeles on the board when he capitalized on a power play in the early stages of the period, but that was a close as they came.
Yakov Trenin made it 3-1 in the third when he redirected a Matt Irwin shot into the twine, and Craig Smith put the game out of reach just moments later. Pekka Rinne also contributed in net with 23 saves on the evening to stymie the Kings.
“It was a huge game for us,” Josi said. “We’re not happy with the way we’re playing the last few games, and it was a big win. Everybody bought in, and that’s what we need.”
The Predators will attempt to replicate Saturday’s effort with a quick turnaround in Anaheim on Sunday night, a chance to take four points in Southern California on the weekend.
“We’ve got up start putting wins together and start putting points on the board,” Grimaldi said. “Every game is huge for us, and you know Anaheim is going to be a hungry team in their home building. You have to have another effort like we did tonight.”
With two points on the night, Josi established a new record for points by a Preds player through the first 40 games of the season with 43 (14g-29a).
With Ellis (IR) and Fabbro (day-to-day) out of the lineup against the Kings, Josi skated alongside Yannick Weber, Mattias Ekholm was with Jarred Tinordi and Dan Hamhuis saw time with Matt Irwin.
The Predators will head down the California coast to Anaheim ahead of Sunday evening’s contest (at 9 p.m. CT) with the Ducks to finish their back-to-back weekend set in the Golden State.