The Nashville Predators edged the New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday night. With only one win in four games going into the contest, Nashville took advantage of an Islanders team that played in Chicago on Friday.
Through the first four games the Predators had struggled on special teams. Going into Saturday’s game the 28th-ranked penalty kill that had executed at 64.7 percent, but the unit came through in the clutch Saturday.
Forward Paul Gaustad notes that puck-luck simply hasn’t gone the Predators way when a man down.
“I thought we were doing a good job, but some of those bounces have been going the power play’s way and going into the net. We need to not get frustrated with it. We are just sticking with what we know and how we execute it. That’s our job and we have to kill those. Everybody stepped up tonight, and I like those challenges,” he said.
The power play wasn’t much better entering the game, at a 14.3 percent success rate. After not scoring a power-play goal in their first two games of the season, the Predators are 3-for-9 with the man advantage in their last three games.
After a scoreless, and penalty-less, first period, special teams helped Nashville early in the second. The Predators went on the power play just 0:15 seconds into the second period when Casey Cizikas got called for boarding Eric Nystrom. Seth Jones scored his first NHL goal less than a minute later at 1:03 into the period.
The Predators also killed off an early penalty when Fisher was called for elbowing.
A 1-0 Predators lead quickly became a 2-1 lead for the Islanders late in the second period as Frans Nielsen and John Tavares scored just shy of three minutes apart. But the Predators entered the third period tied 2-2 on a last minute goal by Patric Hornqvist. Early in the third period, Ryan Ellis gave the Predators the 3-2 lead that was enough for the win.
The momentum shift for Nashville came in the third period when the Predators killed off a four-minute double minor when Matt Hendricks was sent to the penalty box for high sticking just 0:27 seconds after Ellis gave the Predators a 3-2 lead.
“The penalty kill was huge. You look at our two wins – the penalty kill was outstanding when the game was on the line,” Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. The games that we lost – we gave up six goals in four games. That’s a lot to overcome.”
Nashville even had a couple of offensive chances shorthanded with Matt Cullen having a point-blank shot in the slot with Mike Fisher in the box, and again in the third period when Gaustad and Shea Weber had a two-on-one opportunity with a man down.
“We’re killing off that penalty and we had a little bit of a two-on-one. We had a chance, and Weber fell down. Gaustad was pretty tired, and he came all the way back and broke up that play,” Trotz said.
Nashville has now won their last six matchups against the Islanders at Bridgestone Arena, and 11 of 16 meetings overall.