It was another battle for the ages between the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, as the two teams went to the shootout for the second time in four games dating back to Jan. 31, 2013.
Matt Cullen got things started for Nashville as he picked up a loose puck just outside Jonathan Quick’s crease and buried it for his first goal in Predators’ gold midway through the first period. But nine minutes later, Slava Voynov would fire home a cross-ice pass from Mike Richards to tie the game at one.
The score would remain tied through regulation and the overtime frame with both Pekka Rinne (29-of-30) and Quick (34-of-35) making save-after-save to earn the game’s Second and Third Star, respectively.
In the shootout, Head Coach Barry Trotz elected to shoot first, sending Craig Smith, who was lights out in the post-overtime tiebreaker a season ago, out for Nashville, but a rolling puck saw him miss on his attempt. After Richards was stopped on his attempt for Los Angeles, Filip Forsberg skated to the center dot for his first career shootout chance. Forsberg showed some nice moves on the approach, but ultimately fired the puck over the net. In the final round, Cullen was stopped by Quick, before Anze Kopitar beat Rinne to secure two points for the Kings.
Two Big Things and Notes:
Craig Smith Came To Play: Craig Smith recorded a point in his third consecutive game with the primary assist on Matt Cullen’s first period goal. The Madison, Wis., native has four points (1g-3a) in his last three outings and is just two games shy of his career-long five-game points streak set during the 2011-12 season. His assist on Thursday night also tied him with Mike Fisher for the team points lead (1g-4a-5pts). Smith has arguably been Nashville’s best forward through the past four games. He has been defensively responsible, while also creating multiple chances in the offensive zone. This is a welcomed sight for Preds fans after Smith’s “sophomore slump” a season ago.
Rinne Improving: After being pulled in the Preds season opener in St. Louis, Pekka Rinne is looking as if he is back to his normal self. Through Nashville’s last three contests, the Kempele, Finland native has turned away 65-of-71 shots against to post a 1.95 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Rinne also became just the second netminder in franchise history to play in 300 games for the Preds on Thursday night. His career goals-against average of 2.37 ranks third among active goalies with at least 300 games played (Martin Brodeur, 2.23; Henrik Lundqvist, 2.26).
Nashville outshot Los Angeles 35-30, the fourth game in a row in which the Predators have edged their opponent in this category, and matching the team’s season-best streak from 2012-13 (March 17-23, 2013). Over the last four games, Nashville was won the shot battle by an overall margin of 132-97. Each Nashville skater attempted a shot on goal on Thursday night.
The Predators penalty kill has been perfect (8-for-8) over the last three games.
Nashville has scored first in three straight games (2-0-1 record).
Tonight was the first overtime or shootout game of the Predators’ season.
Through seven games, Nashville is ranked second in faceoff efficiency, winning 56.2 percent of the draws.
Patric Hornqvist fired a game-high seven shots on goal (tied with LA’s Jeff Carter). Hornqvist's shot total was the highest by a Predator this season.
Defenseman Kevin Klein blocked six shots, a game high. He leads the Predators with 14 blocks on the season.
Shea Weber led all players in ice time, surpassing the 30-minute mark for the first time this season (30:23; previous high of 26:59).
Paul Gaustad won 60 percent of his faceoffs – he has not been below 50 percent in any game this season.
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