Predators waste no time going for goals as playoff race revs up

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 11:05pm

There’s no room for virtue in a playoff race.

Or maybe it’s just that the Nashville Predators, in the thick of the tightest Western Conference standings during the franchise’s history, have no time for the virtue of patience.

For roughly three weeks now, the Predators have wasted little time getting down to the business of trying to score goals. They have outshot the opposition — sometimes by a wide margin — in the first period of seven of the last eight games. It’s likely not a coincidence that they have scored at least once in the opening 20 minutes in six of those eight.

“Obviously, off the bat we want to be better and play with the lead all game and do those types of things,” center David Legwand said. “… We have to get two or three [goals] whenever we can in the first period.”

The string of fast starts began in the final game before the All-Star break, Jan. 26 at Vancouver.

The next chance to extend it comes Thursday when the Canucks come to Bridgestone Arena (7 p.m.), but it won’t be easy. Vancouver leads the NHL in fewest first-period goals allowed with 29 in 58 games, an average of one every other contest, and in first-period goal differential with a tidy plus-24. Its 53 scored is second in the Western Conference.

In the prior meeting, the first of the season, between the teams, Nashville had a 12-4 edge in shots at the first intermission but neither team scored. The Predators ultimately lost 2-1.

Most recently, they outshot San Jose 14-12 over the first 20 minutes on a night when they ultimately allowed a season-high 50 shots, including five in fewer than four minutes of overtime.

“In the first period, we did [things} … correctly,” coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday night. “We had a really strong first period.”

That has become the norm. Over those last eight games the Predators have outshot the opposition 91-57 and have produced a 7-3 edge in goals. It includes a 16-6 edge against Edmonton, 11-6 against Detroit and 10-4 against Colorado.

None of the last eight opponents (the last 11, in fact) have managed even 10 shots in the opening period.

Unfortunately for Nashville, the slowdown against San Jose was nothing unusual as Nashville fell to 3-3-2 during this string of fast starts.

“We came out hard [against San Jose], and we just didn’t keep our foot on the gas for the full 60 minutes,” defenseman Cody Franson said.

The fact that the Predators routinely have eschewed patience of late puts the onus on their fans to be prompt, with nine of this month’s 13 games at home.

“It’s fun to play at home,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “We try to appreciate that and come out of the gate pretty well. So we’ve been doing that.”