Finally, the Nashville Predators looked like they were in a hurry to lock up a playoff berth.
After having lost three of their last five and having been shut out in their last two at home, they scored three unanswered goals in Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues – and two of them came off the rush.
“I think it’s a good sign,” Steve Sullivan, who got the game-winner at 6:05 of the third period, said. “We don’t usually score a lot from the rush.”
With the victory Nashville moved within one point of securing a spot in the postseason for the fifth time in franchise history. That means if any of the final three games even go to overtime or if Calgary loses one of its remaining five the Predators will play on beyond the regular season.
“Obviously, we all know the standings and we all know who has to win,” rookie forward Colin Wilson said. “We’re just taking care of our business trying to get those two points every night.”
In order to get the two for this game they needed to score, which sounded easier than it actually was.
Nashville came into the night having played 160:32 at Bridgestone Arena since its last goal. It took more than one period before Dustin Boyd finally broke that streak at 191:44 – a franchise record at home – with 8:42 to play in the second period.
From there, the Predators were off and running.
Wilson tied the game at 2-2 with 3.5 seconds to play in the second period as he followed Patric Hornqvist up the center of the ice. As Hornqvist drove to the net and took two defenders with him, Wilson gathered up the loose puck and deposited it under the crossbar.
Then in the third, Hornqvist flicked a puck high in the air in order to facilitate a line change. Sullivan skated underneath it as it crossed the blue line, quickly gathered it in when it landed and raced to the far post, where he easily beat a diving goalie Chris Mason.
“The second one was a huge goal,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It was real late in the period, and most guys when the puck goes down the ice will just wait for the next period.
“… Wilson came behind (Hornqvist) found a loose puck and scored a huge goal. That one had to hurt them. I know it gave us a boost.”
Enough of a boost, in fact, that the finish line in their playoff chase is now in sight.
• Before he scored his goal, Wilson got in the first fight of his NHL career. He dropped the gloves with Blues’ defenseman Roman Polak at 15:02 of the first period.
“This was my first one in the NHL,” Wilson said. “I had a couple in the minors, so it was good to get this one in. I was pretty mad, I don’t know why. There were just a lot of tempers flaring out there.”
• Jordin Tootoo was a healthy scratch, which meant he was not in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 18. He was replaced by Wade Belak in response to the presence of 6-foot-3, 230-pound Blues’ forward DJ King.
“(Tootoo) is as tough as they come,” Trotz said. “But he’s not as big as King, so we put Wade in there to keep things quiet.”
Belak and King fought with 6:15 to play in the second period.
• Captain Jason Arnott (head) missed his seventh straight game but skated again prior to the contest. Trotz said Arnott would be reevaluated Friday at which time a decision would be made on whether Arnott will travel with the team to Detroit for its next game.
Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (lower body) will not return before the end of the regular season, but he has reached a point in his rehab that he is ready to increase his worklod significantly.