The second period was more like an exclamation point.
The Nashville Predators’ play during the middle 20 minutes of Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was nothing if not emphatic as it propelled them to a 7-4 victory before 15,084 at the Sommet Center.
The Predators scored five goals — one short of the franchise record for a period — on 11 shots. All five were scored by different players and 10 of the 18 skaters had at least one point. Two of the goals came 28 seconds apart against two different goalies.
When Dan Hamhuis’ shot from the point found its way into the top corner of the net with 3:51 to go before the second intermission, Nashville led 6-2 and already had matched its highest scoring game of the season.
“We gave up quite a few too,” center Marcel Goc said. “I think we would rather win the game 3-1 than 7-4 or something like that. … We played well in the second and set ourselves up for the third when we fell back to what we did in the first period.”
The Predators (20-11-3, 43 points) were outscored in both the first and third periods and were outshot 34-27 for the contest. They also gave up three points (two goals, one assist) to Tampa Bay’s top offensive threat, Vincent Lecavalier, who got the Lightning to within two, 6-4, with a breakaway goal at 12:20 of the third.
Still, the second period was more than enough to offset all of that.
Nashville had scored at least four goals in nine of the preceding 15 contests but had scored five or more in a period just five times in its history. The last time was Feb. 28 when it got five in the first of what turned out to be an 8-0 victory over Detroit.
“You need bounces to get performances like that, and I think that’s what we did,” center David Legwand said. “Pucks had eyes (Tuesday) night and found their way to the net and those sorts of things.”
The offensive flurry included Ryan Jones’ third goal in as many games, a goal and an assist by Patric Hornqvist and a pair of assists by Goc, who had a total of two in 31 games entering the contest.
Tampa Bay (11-13-9, 31 points) led 2-1 after the first period, but Nashville erased that deficit when Legwand and Jones each scored within the first three minutes of the second.
The Lightning pulled starting goalie Antero Niittymaki after Hornqvist made it 4-2 with 7:38 to go. Mike Smith replaced Niitymaki and allowed a goal to J.P. Dumont on the first shot he faced, with 7:10 left in the period.
“If the goalie doesn’t get scored on his confidence is probably pretty high,” Hornqvist, who had the lone assist on Dumont’s goal, said. “It was nice to see the first shot went in. It was bad for (Smith) but good for us.”
It actually was a rough night for all three goalies who played given that the 11 combined goals were the most in a Predators’ regulation game this season. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne went start to finish, though, made 30 saves — his third-highest total of the season — and became the 12th goalie in the league with at least 14 wins thus far.
“It was a little bit wide open,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I think both sides had some easy goals, so the score got a little higher than, I think, we usually see.”
• Forward Nick Spaling was recalled prior to the contest and made his NHL debut. He recorded his first career point with an assist on Jones’ goal and had one shot, three hits and a plus-1 rating in a mere 6:05 of ice time.
“He made a great play … on (Jones’) goal,” Trotz said. “He has a lot of speed, a lot of smarts a lot of detail to his game. … For his first showing, it was good for him.”
• Jones appeared to have injured his right shoulder in a collision with Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman with 14:14 to play in the game. Trotz said, following a consultation with the team trainer, that the injury did not appear serious.
Hedman was called for boarding on the play.
• Of the 18 skaters in the Nashville lineup, 17 finished the game with a plus rating and seven had better than a plus-1 led by Hamhuis, who had a plus-3.
The only player not on the plus side was defenseman Shea Weber who was even on 28 shifts.