The Nashville Predators returned to their winning ways by pounding the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Saturday night. The win marked a return to Predator hockey with tough defense and a gritty offensive effort that delivered four even strength goals.
After the winning streak had been broken the night before, Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz called the game against Florida the “most improtant game of the year” , and he was right. Right because it was imperative that this team respond well to the challenge of the speedy Panthers after the loss the previous night. Another lackluster effort could begin the wrong kind of streak, one that would see the losses start to mount.
Dan Hamhuis staked the Predators to a 1-0 lead in the first period when he scored his first goal of the season with a blast from the blue line. Jordan Leopold tied the game in the second period when he scored on a three on two rush after a Predator turnover, and the game remained tied going in to the third period.
The game was in the balance when the third period began, and it was then that the Predators began to exert their will. After Jason Arnott blocked a Panther clearing attempt, Steve Sullivan fired a shot on goalie Scott Clemmensen, who gave up a big rebound that J. P. Dumont buried for the go ahead goal. Later in the period, David Legwand bulled his way in for a goal between two defenders and slid a puck through Clemmensen’s pads for a 3-1 lead. Joel Ward added an empty net goal for the final margin.
The win was indeed a big win for the Predators as the exhibited the resolve to take control of the game. Matched against a speedy team that was desperate for a win, the Predators refused to wilt. They took control of the game by forcing the action and playing their style of hockey. They made Florida adjust to them rather than adjusting to the Panther’s game.
Predator hockey showed up in this game- an aggressive forecheck, tough defense, and excellent goaltending. Dan Ellis was sterling in net, getting his first start since November 6th. He looked comfortable and stopped 23 of 24 shots he faced. Ellis made several big saves to hold the Panthers off the board.
Exerting their will. Refusing to wilt. Resilient. Characteristics that are not flashy and grab headlines. They are characteristics, however, that will serve this team in go0d stead as they continue through the regular season. Characteristics that serve as a solid foundation upon which to build a winning record.
The balance between winning and losing is often a fine line. Having the heart and drive to refuse the adversity that occurs during a game and the will to win pushes a team on the right side of that line. Those traits were on display against Florida. To continue winning, they must be on display every night.
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.