Assuming that bounces actually do even out over the course of an 82-game NHL season, the Nashville Predators are going to have to pay for this one.
A portion of their debt for good fortune was satisfied when the Los Angeles Kings ruined Pekka Rinne’s bid for a shutout with a goal 3:24 from the finish on a shot that deflected in off the leg of defenseman Ryan Suter.
The Predators still finished the night one up in fortuitous caroms and that was the difference in their 2-1 victory Monday before 15,665 at Bridgestone Arena.
“I thought L.A. played a real solid game,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They didn’t give us a whole heck of a lot. Our goals — one we were going to the net hard and it went off their defenseman, just like their goal went off our defenseman.”
The difference was Patric Hornqvist’s goal 3:52 into the second period.
In just his second game back from injury, Hornqvist regained a share of the team’s goal scoring lead after David Legwand’s shot from the left wing circle missed to the left, bounced off the boards behind the net, came off cleanly to the other side and right on to his stick.
“I got a little bit of a lucky bounce,” Hornqvist said. “But I’ll take that.”
It should be noted that moments earlier Kings forward Jeff Carter bounced a shot off the post and just missed an opportunity to even the score.
The victory was Nashville’s fourth in the last five games and capped a stretch in which it earned seven of a possible eight points over four games in seven days — all at home — against some of the top teams in the Western Conference. It also made the Predators the fifth team in the league with at least 21 wins on home ice.
“They come in waves, it seems like, especially at home,” Kings forward Jarret Stoll said of the Predators. We knew that. We were prepared for that. Giving up the first and second goal, it’s definitely an uphill battle.”
The Kings, the lowest scoring team in the league, were the only Western Conference opponent that had not visited Bridgestone this season. They had won on their last three visits, though, each time by at least two goals.
Nashville went ahead to stay in this one when Roman Josi’s shot went off the stick of Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, handcuffed goalie Jonathan Quick and tricked in. From there, the Predators hung on through what players and coaches called an uneven performance.
“We can’t play like we did in the third period,” Hornqvist said. “We just backed away too much. We have to still go after them, no matter if we’re up or we’re down.”
Eventually, they backed up far enough that a bad bounce ended up in their net.
“They came hard at the end and we were maybe a little bit sloppy at times and turned the puck over maybe a few too many times,” Rinne said. “When you shoot the puck and you start throwing pucks at the net, something is going to happen.
“I think that their goal was one of those goals. It just happened to hit a skate and went in. But at this point in the season, I’ll take a 2-1 win any single day.”
It will be some other day that — figuratively speaking, of course — that the score will even out.
• Rinne will have the night off Tuesday when the Predators play at Carolina (6 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
Monday’s game was his 11th straight appearance, his longest stretch of games since he appeared in each of this season’s first 13.
Anders Lindback, who has not won since Dec. 1, will be in the net for Nashville.
“Lindy works every day so hard and he’s ready to go,” Rinne said.
• The two newest team members, forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad, acquired in trades earlier in the day, were not with the team. Both were expected to make their Nashville debuts against Carolina.
“We got two great players,” Hornqvist said. “I’m looking forward to meeting them and to getting this thing going.”
• Defenseman Ryan Ellis was recalled earlier in the day because of uncertainty regarding Kevin Klein’s health.
Klein was scratched but Ellis did not play. Jack Hillen, a healthy scratch in 10 of the previous 11, was in the lineup instead.