Rarely, if ever, have the Nashville Predators been particular about scoring goals. To put it simply: They’ll take whatever they can get.
Suddenly, though, teams are giving them away.
Two of the Predators’ tallies in a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday came when Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick misplayed the puck while he was out of his net. The second, scored by Marcel Goc 2:30 into the third period, turned out to be the game-winner.
That was two nights after a 4-3 victory over Edmonton, in which Jason Arnott’s game-winner actually was kicked in by an Oilers’ defenseman.
“We jumped on a couple things that happened to them,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s what you need to do against them because they don’t give you a lot.”
The Kings came into the contest fourth in the Western Conference standings having gone 11-1-1 in their last 13. They came out of the Olympic break with a 5-1 romp at Dallas on Tuesday.
They wasted no time asserting themselves in this one as Alexander Frolov gave them a lead 54 seconds after the opening faceoff. That immediately quieted the crowd of 15,653 at Bridgestone Arena.
It was a little more than three and a half minutes later that Quick went behind the net to play a dump-in from Steve Sullivan. The puck caromed off his stick, out from behind the net and right to J.P. Dumont, who tied it before Quick had time to recover.
“The biggest goal for me in the whole game was the Dumont goal,” Trotz said. “L.A. came out quickly … and we were sort of in silence on the bench. You’re hoping to rev up the crowd and you’re down 1-0 (less than) a minute into the game. … The Dumont goal gave us some life.”
Goc’s goal then gave them some breathing room. Nashville took a 2-1 lead into the third period and then extended it after Quick turned the puck over to Martin Erat. Rather than shoot, Erat laid off the puck to Goc, who – with help from a screen by Patric Hornqvist – beat Quick as the goalie scrambled back into his crease.
That cushion proved particularly valuable as four of the five penalties called against the Predators in the contest came after that goal. The Kings capitalized on one of their two third-period power plays but never managed to get an equalizer.
“That’s hockey,” L.A. forward Anze Kopitar said. “Bounces are going to happen; pucks are going to jump over your stick. You’ve got to put those ones behind you and play normally the rest of the way. That (first one) gave the momentum.”
When Quick stayed in the crease and faced shots in traditional fashion, he more than held his own. He made 28 saves, some of them spectacular.
“Their goaltender made some sick saves out there for them,” Arnott, who scored a second-period power play goal, said. “We had a lot of backdoor plays that might have gone in on another night. I don’t know how he got across on some of them. He really kept them in it.”
Thus no one in the Nashville locker room was going to feel bad about the ones that got past him.
• Forward Dustin Boyd, acquired from Calgary shortly before Wednesday’s trade deadline was not available because of immigration issues. Officially, he was a healthy scratch,
The hope is he will be available when the Predators play at Detroit, 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“If everything goes well, he will be in Detroit,” Trotz said.
Wade Belak was Nashville’s other scratch.
• Pekka Rinne faced just 22 shots as he won for the 22nd time this season.
After he allowed the goal in the first minute of the game, he did not yield another until 6:40 in the third. Of course, the second period wasn’t much of a challenge as he faced just four shots.
“It was like probably the first 12 or 13 minutes (there was) just one shot,” Rinne said. “When I don’t get a lot of shots, I try to play the puck … and stuff like that. That’s one way you can still kind of keep yourself involved.”
• With two assists, Erat was the only player for either side with multiple points. Five of his last six points have been assists.
• Goc became the 12th different Nashville player with a game-winning goal. He had just one in his previous three seasons combined, which consisted of 184 games.