Power Play: Predators capable of winning games without best performance

Good teams find a way to win bad games. That’s not to say the Predators played a bad game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, but they most definitely did not play as the offensively dynamic Preds group that we’ve seen thus far this season. It was sloppy, with plenty of turnovers, neutral zone play and chances against Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

Yet, much like on Tuesday, the Predators just needed to find an opening and to make it count.

Coming into the game without the services of Devan Dubnyk, Jordan Greenway or Kevin Fiala for Minnesota, the odds were fair that Nashville could have a repeat of their Tuesday night romp against the Ducks. The longer you think about it, though, the more likely it is that the exact opposite will happen. Because we just can’t be that lucky, can we?

Sure enough, the Predators were outplayed, outshot and out-chanced in the first period. The Wild, winners of their previous two games, came in looking for a much-needed win against a division rival who beat them 5-2 just three weeks prior. Even after holding Nashville to four shots in the first, the Predators immediately reset any positive momentum the Wild generated during the first 20 minutes by netting a goal 37 seconds into the second period.

After that, there wasn’t any looking back.

NaturalStatTrick, one of the best sites for watching and evaluating a team’s performance before, after and even during a game, highlighted in their Gameflow map just how poorly things had progressed for the Predators after the first period. Salomaki’s goal stopped the bleeding, allowing the Predators to set the tone going forward from there.

Nashville would notch a Big Mac Goal from Calle Jarnkrok (a goal scored in the final five minutes of the second period that grants everyone in attendance a free Big Mac from participating McDonald’s locations during the subsequent day), a point-blank snipe from Craig Smith seven minutes into the third for his first of the year, and a Frosty-rewarding shorthanded goal from Colton Sissons 10 minutes later (where Nashville’s fourth goal of the game, home or away, rewards all fans with a free Frosty from participating Wendy’s locations.)

Like I said, good teams just find a way to win games, especially when your opponent throws the kitchen sink at you for 20 straight minutes with nothing to show for it.

LOCKER ROOM SOUND

“Well, shoot the puck, for one. I think speed and making plays is a big part of that, too. We got a couple of bounces. You can look back at those and say ‘well, if you never shot it, it wouldn’t go in’. Overall, I thought we tightened it up a bit in the second. We had a breakthrough on a couple of plays, broke their coverage and just made plays.”

– Predators forward Craig Smith on the mentality change in the second period after being limited to four shots in the first.

THREE THOUGHTS

1) I’ve harped in my three thoughts, in my stories, on my radio show, and in interviews about how Nashville’s poorly executed penalty kill really needed to find some solid ground before getting too deep into the season. They’ve now killed six straight penalties dating back to last Saturday’s shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. Included in those six are two straight games of perfect penalty killing. It’s been enough to jump them out of the 60-percent group to a solid 71 percent on the penalty kill through 10 games. Granted, that’s good enough to be tied for 27th in the league, but you have to start somewhere.

2) We like to ride on Predators forward Miikka Salomaki every game he plays for the team because he’s normally one of the first players to a) be scratched when an injured player returns or b) lose ice time as a game progresses, especially if it’s a tight contest. Credit where credit is due, however, but Salomaki has played himself into earning the ice time he’s received as of late. Salomaki notched the opening goal against the Wild on Thursday off a beautiful drop pass from Colton Sissons.

It’s nice to see Salomaki succeed. It really is. Even if there’s an end to the tunnel eventually. He’s just a couple of seasons removed from missing the majority of the year due to injuries, one of those sustained while on a conditioning stint with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. There’s no telling how frustrating that must be. Regardless, Salomaki’s a gritty, heart-and-soul type player for a Predators team that largely doesn’t utilize guys like him en masse anymore. It makes for a fun night when even he’s getting onto the scoreboard.

3) Fun fact: if Predators fans were to receive all the free food/drink items that can be given away during a normal game night, they’re looking at ingesting 1,312 calories if they go and collect all of them. Thanks to fellow Nashville journalist Jim Diamond, he came up with the following numbers after Thursday game against Minnesota:

Coffee and a donut for breakfast? Big Mac and a Frosty for lunch? If you want to save some money and don’t mind making multiple stops, cash in when you can.