There is nothing like doing things a little differently to start a new year.
Sergei Kostitstyn’s first career hat trick carried the Nashville Predators to a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.
It was an unusually high-scoring affair between teams ranked in the top half of the league for goals allowed per game and that typically produce tight-checking, nip-and-tuck affairs.
“It did end up almost a one-goal game there at the end,” left wing Matt Halischuk said. “Usually we’re more low-scoring than that.”
Kostitsyn capped the hat trick, the first by a Predators player this season, with an empty-net goal that blunted a third-period Calgary rally. Nashville actually led by three goals at the start of the third period thanks to a run of four straight over a span than began with 7:21 to play in the first period and ended with Kostitsyn’s second, which came with 5:59 gone in the second.
The result was the 11th straight meeting between Nashville and Calgary decided by one or two goals (six by one goal, five by two goals). However, the previous three matchups this season produced a total of just six goals with two shutouts (one for each side).
“You look at the first three games of the season — 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 — I was expecting 2-2 and a shootout or an overtime,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “… I was a little it concerned. The new year [has brought] some strange games in the past.
“We talked about being really focused.”
This was the 10th time in franchise history Nashville played on New Year’s Day. All were at home, but only two of the first eight resulted in victories, the last of which was in 2004 against Pittsburgh.
Calgary took an early lead this time on Jarome Iginila’s 499th career goal and 29th all-time (more than any other opposing player) against the Predators.
Before long, though, Nashville was up 4-1 and seemingly on its way to an easy victory. It had more shots in the second period (15) than Calgary had in the first two combined (13) and more goals than Flames’ netminder Miikka Kiprusoff had allowed in his previous two outings total.
“Probably about halfway through the first period and all the way through the second period we were excellent,” Trotz said. “We didn’t give them anything. We stayed on the puck. We had lots of chances. We scored two goals in the second period but I thought we could have had four — we were real strong.”
Kostitsyn made it 4-1 when he squeezed the puck between Kiprusoff’s pads with a shot from the left wing on a one-o-one with Patric Honqvist (two assists). His first goal, which put the Predators ahead for good at 15:06 of the first period, was easier in that he was at the far post and had a wide open net when he took a pass from Mike Fisher. His momentum as a shot, though, carried him headfirst into the boards behind the net as the puck went in.
He finished it when he outraced defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a loose puck and knocked it across the goal line, where it already was headed. It was just his third shot of the contest.
The last Nashville hat trick was March 20, when Blake Geoffrion got three goals at Buffalo. The last in a home game was Dec. 8, 2009 by Martin Erat, against Vancouver.
“I think he shot the puck a little more than usual,” Hornqvist said. “Everyone knows he has a great shot. … He was a big part of the win.”
• Shea Weber missed his fourth straight game with a concussion but skated on his own Sunday morning, roughly seven hours before the 5 p.m. faceoff.
“There’s no real update,” Trotz said. “There’s still no timetable on [his return]. So we won’t have an update until he’s ready to go, really.”
• Calgary center Olli Jokinen played his 1,000th career game, an accomplishment that was recognized at the first stoppage in play.
The 33-year-old had an assist on Iginla’s goal. It was the 373rd assist and 654th point of his career, which began with Los Angeles in 1997-98 — the season before the Predators entered the NHL.