The Nashville Predators got a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night and were aided by the fact that they scored the first goal of the game for the second consecutive game. Getting that first goal and playing with the lead seems to fit perfectly into the style of play the Predators have, and that proved to be the case on Tuesday night despite Nashville not playing a good defensive game.
“It’s a lot easier when you’re up a goal,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “A good example of that is we were up a goal and we started playing poorly in the second, and they score and you’re tied and so you’re back to even. If you’re down a goal and if you’re playing poorly and there’s a second goal, it seems like it’s a big mountain to climb. Scoring first in this league–you can ask any team, any coach, any player, it’s a nice comfort level to have. Last two games we’ve scored first and won the games, so it seems to be a pretty important stat.”
The man responsible for giving the Predators the first goal of the game was captain Shea Weber. He unleashed an absolute rocket from the blue line that beat Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom before he could even react. That first goal allowed the Predators to play with the lead, which is something that haven’t been able to do a lot so far this season.
“It’s huge,” Weber said. “When you’ve got a goaltender like Pekka [Rinne], you want to start with the lead. You can rely on him to make saves as he needs to. We’ve still got to do a better job in front of him. I think we’re giving up too many quality chances and making it harder on him than it should be.”
“It’s huge coming out of the gate, especially with all the games we have coming up here,” said Predators defenseman Victor Bartley. “Anytime you can jump out to the lead nice and early it’s great. We didn’t play our best game tonight, but overall we found a way to win and sometimes that’s more important.”
Nashville never trailed in the game and were able to continue to bounce back after Florida would tie the game. The Panthers tied the game at one and two before the Predators were able to jump out to a 4-2 lead and establish some breathing room. They were able to hold on to that lead thanks to timely goaltending and defense at the very end of the game.
“I think anytime you play with the lead you have a little bit more confidence going out there each and every shift knowing you have a job to do, and that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to worry about scoring goals or doing anything fancy. You just play that muck style of hockey and do all the little things. The battle along the wall, the chipped pucks and the blocked shots. Those are huge,” Bartley said.
Nashville’s 4-3 win over Florida marks the first time the Predators have won back-to-back games since late March of the 2012-13 season. Until Tuesday night’s win, the Predators had played 20 regular season games in a row without winning back-to-back games. It’s going to be absolutely essential for them to be able to put together winning streaks this season.
“Good teams have to win games in a row, and part of that was winning an ugly one tonight and hopefully we can keep it rolling. It’s not an easy road trip playing in some tough barns going up northeast, and we’ve got to make sure we get the win on Thursday,” Weber said.
“We knew that tonight Florida had a lot of offense coming into tonight’s game, and we had to continue to work hard and just do the small things. Tonight that just prevailed overall, and we got the two points,” Bartley said.
The Predators are a much better team when they’re playing with the lead. They’re not offensively talented enough to be chasing teams from behind on a consistent basis. Nashville wants to be a team that plays a frustrating style for the opponent, and that’s much easier to do when they’re winning the game.