Ever since coach Barry Trotz shuffled his lines a little more than a week ago, it has been difficult to find the line between the Nashville Predators’ offensive and defensive units. That’s because goals have come from up and down the roster.
Witness Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers before 16,585 at Bridgestone Arena – the first home game with the new units.
Nashville responded to an early deficit with three first-period goals in a span of 5:32. All three goals came from different lines, and eight different forwards – and one defenseman – had a point.
That gave them enough of a cushion to withstand two goals allowed in the third period, to get to overtime and eventually to the shootout, where Martin Erat was the only player for either team who converted.
“It wasn’t one of our best games — by far,” Nashville captain Jason Arnott said. “I don’t think we did the right things at the beginning of the game, but we pulled through it, got an early lead and came out of it with two points.
“You can say ‘ugly win,’ and we’ll take the two points. That’s all that matters.”
In the five games (4-1-0) with the current configuration, 10 different forwards have at least one point and five have at least one goal and one assist. The only player to score more than once in a single game during that span is J.P. Dumont.
The most productive of the units in terms of points is that of Arnott, Erat and Colin Wilson. All four have four points while playing together, and Wilson’s three goals are tied for the team-high under the current alignment.
Erat put Nashville in front of Philadelphia when he scored at 7:04 of the first, courtesy for a feed from Arnott.
“We’re getting contributions from everybody,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… That does make it hard for (opponents) to match up.”
It was Steve Sullivan who got the Predators on the board with his second goal in as many games. The assists went to both of his linemates, Patric Hornqvist and Marcel Goc.
The third goal came from Jerred Smithson courtesy of assists by David Legwand and Joel Ward. For Smithson and Ward, it was their first points since the switch.
Trotz expressed his belief that the trio of Dumont, Dustin Boyd and Jordin Tootoo, the only one that did not produce a goal against the Flyers, was as dangerous as any of the others. Boyd had three shots and Dumont had two.
“I think it’s more just guys stepping up,” Smithson said. “This time of year you have to. It’s going to take everyone. Other teams are going to do their best to shut down our top scorers, and it’s going to take a lot more from everyone.
“It’s a lot of fun playing right now.”
Nashville remains the only team among the top nine in the Western Conference standings to have allowed more goals (201) than it has scored (196) this season.
That gap has not closed at all over the last five games, which have included 14 goals for and 14 against, due in large part to an 8-5 loss last week at San Jose. Still, there’s been a big difference in wins and losses.
“We’ve been trying to get production from everybody all year,” Sullivan said. “So we’ve been scoring by committee (lately). The lines are definitely set up that way now.”
• Philadelphia had 17 shots on goal in the first period – the most allowed by Nashville in the opening 20 minutes this season. Linemates Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere accounted for nearly half that total – and the game’s first goal – with four shots apiece.
“We just didn’t do very good work on the wall early on,” Arnott said. “… We just weren’t getting it out.”
The Flyers eventually registered 45 shots for the game, also the most allowed by the Predators this season.
• There were only two power plays in the contest – both of them for Philadelphia. The second, the result of a delay of game call against Dan Hamhuis, produced the game-tying goal.
It was the first time since March 14, 2003 at Minnesota (a 3-1 loss) Nashville has not had at least one power play.
“It was real frustrating, some of those – lack of – calls,” Smithson said. “Maybe they didn’t seem some of them. That’s what they said.”
• Sullivan has goals in back-to-back games for just the second time this season. The other time he did so was Nov. 14 (two against Montreal) and Nov. 17 (one against San Jose).
• Erat’s goal was his 20th of the season, which moved him within three of his career-high set in 2007-08. This is the third time in his career he has scored at least 20.
• Predators’ prospect Taylor Beck was the named the winner of the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy, which is presented annually to the top-scoring right wing in the Ontario Hockey League.
Beck, a third-round pick (70th overall) in 2009 had 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 61 games and was tied for fourth in the league in scoring. His season included a five-point game back in January.