The Nashville Predators fell to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in a 2-1 shootout loss but played arguably their best game of the season.
Coming into Thursday night’s game against the Kings, Nashville’s line of Gabriel Bourque, Matt Cullen and Craig Smith had arguably been their best line of forwards in the previous two games. That was again the case for the Predators on Thursday night.
The speedy line of Bourque, Cullen and Smith recorded Nashville’s only goal of the game and looked good all night long. They all have a skill set that seems to complement one another, which has resulted in stellar play from them over the past three games especially.
“We just try to keep the puck moving forward and get shots. I think we’re all really good skaters and if need be, a chip out of the zone, I think we have two guys that can go and get the puck, and when you have the puck, good things can happen,” Smith said.
They all bring a different skill set to the table. Bourque is a tenacious, hard-hitting forward with the ability to score. Smith is a shoot-first forward that is very good at creating a shot when nothing is there. Cullen is a very smart veteran forward that has good hands and can play in any situation. However, there is one thing they all have in common: Speed. And lots of it.
“We really support each other well,” Smith said. “If we get in trouble, we can get back. We’re able to do a lot of things with speed. One thing is it’s tough to handle for defensemen, and we can get to plays and get back to plays and it helps a lot.”
“If they’re moving the puck, it’s a big advantage for them because they can use their speed, and they’re using their legs,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “That’s real important for that line to be checking well, and manage the puck well and shooting. [Smith] had a great chance in the middle of the ice today. It gives us lots of options.”
Cullen got his first goal with the Predators after being very close to scoring several times in the last few games. He was able to put a rebound past Jonathan Quick, who had initially made a barrage of saves before Cullen was finally able to put one past him. Cullen can play on the penalty kill, has played on the point on the power play, and is a veteran player that knows what it takes to win.
“He’s very smart,” Smith said. “He’s been around the league for a long time. He knows the ups and downs in a game. He knows how to stay on track. Just being on the bench and listening to him, he’s really knowledgeable so it’s been cool to be around him and hear how things are so positive all the time. It’s been an honor.”
“He’s a great leader,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “He’s played a lot of games in this league. He’s won a Stanley Cup, and a guy that knows what it takes so he’s been good for the room. Obviously huge for him to get his first one with us, and hopefully it keeps going.”
Nashville did a good job of getting shots on goal, but were unable to solve Quick. The Predators finished with 35 shots on goal and really played well. They just ran into a goaltender that was able to make some truly spectacular saves to keep his team in the game.
“Absolutely. This team does a good job of getting pucks on net. A couple of the rebounds aren’t really hitting the stick and missing by a foot or two I think. Nothing you can do about that but keep going to the net, and good things will happen,” Smith said.
“We did some good things. We played hard and got a lot of chances. We need to find a way to get those to go. Just got to stick to it and keep working,” Weber said.
The Predators finished their five-game homestand with a 3-1-1 record, improving their record on the season to 3-3-1. Nashville collected seven out of a possible 10 points on the homestand, which is a good building block for them moving forward.
“It’s good. We’d like to have all of them though,” Smith said. “All of them as much as possible, but it’s good to get the points on the homestand here and now we go on the road for a little bit and try to get the away record up.”
“It gives us something to build with,” Weber said. “Tough road trip coming up. Just have to keep playing well and playing hard like we have been.”