Based on recent results there was every reason to believe that Tuesday’s game between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames would be a race to two goals.
Nashville had won three in a row, the last two having held the opposition to just one goal. Calgary’s last six, including four straight wins, had the losing team limited to a single score.
The Flames were the ones who got there when they hit the net twice in the second period, the latter when they beat the clock and scored with just 18 seconds to go.
As it turned out, that was – in fact – all they needed. The Predators took advantage of a third-period power play but – along with 15,030 at Sommet Center – saw their win streak snapped with a 3-1 defeat. An empty-net goal by the Flames with 18 seconds to play in the game was irrelevant.
“The second goal, obviously … for them – great timing; for us – couldn’t be worse probably,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “… That was a huge goal. That was huge on their part. … The second goal was absolutely monumental for them.”
It was a game that featured a lot more shots through two periods – 28 for Calgary, 19 for Nashville – than actual scoring chances. Each side played sound positional hockey and kept a lot of the action in its respective defensive end.
Both Flames’ goals, though, came when they managed to break down the structure of the Predators’ defense and create opportunities with loose pucks.
Olli Jokinen scored the second off the rebound of a Dion Phanuef shot one second earlier. David Moss got the first at the end of a three-shot sequence, which lasted 10 seconds.
“They’re a good team,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They play a similar style to us – a hard, grind-it-out puck possession-type game. That’s how we want to play. They just did it better than us for two periods.”
Nashville not only outshot Calgary 9-6 in the third it also pressed the action enough that it drew two penalties in a span of 2:24, which was one more than had been called against the Flames up to that point.
Four of the Predators’ shots in the period came on the resultant power plays, and the last of those shots – by Patric Hornqvist – finally got Nashville on the board with 6:15 remaining.
By that time, though, the Flames had been basking in glow of their second goal for some time.
“The first minute and last minute of periods are crucial … and (the second goal) gave them a lot of confidence going into the third period with a 2-0 lead instead of a 1-0 lead,” forward Steve Sullivan said. “That comes down to be the difference in the hockey game.”
• Hornqvist’s goal was his 14th of the season, which tied him with Martin Erat for the team lead. It also was his third on the power play, one off the team lead.
Since being scratched on Dec. 5 against Minnesota (the only time this season he did not play). Hornqvist has scored nine goals in 14 games and has not gone more than two straight games without at least one.
• Calgary got its 13th road victory of the season. It came in tied with Nashville for fourth-most in the Western Conference.
“We know it’s a hard-working team here,” goalie Miika Kiprusoff said. “We don’t get anything free here. We have to work hard. … I’m pretty happy with the way we played and it was good to get some points.”
• Flames’ forward Jerome Iginla had an assist on the empty-net goal, which gave him 50 points (26 goals, 24 assists) in 39 career appearances against Nashville, including three goals and three assists in four games against this season.