Defensemen be nimble. Defensemen be quick.
This is no nursery rhyme. This is the story of how the Nashville Predators, in the unusual role of a prohibitive favorite, made sure the New York Islanders’ nightmare continued.
Blue liners Cody Franson and Shane O’Brien displayed rare dexterity to create the first two goals, which ultimately sent the Predators on to a 5-0 victory before 14,314 at Bridgestone Arena. Rookie goalie Anders Lindback recorded his second straight shutout as Nashville won its third straight and recorded a point for the eighth consecutive contest.
The Islanders, conversely, have won just once and have earned a total of five points since Oct. 21, a span of 21 games. They have lost six straight in regulation.
“The way the Islanders have gone through a little bit of a tough time right now, [when] we got the second goal it was real huge,” coach Barry Trotz said. “ … We said here’s a team that’s on the brink, the second goal is going to be huge.”
That one came at 5:22 of the second period when Patric Hornqvist scored his first of two in the contest. He scored in typical fashion — he jammed home a rebound from the front of the net.
It was O’Brien who set up the goal with a play that was very much out of the ordinary. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder jumped over a sliding New York player, defenseman Dylan Reese, before he gathered the puck and let go the shot that allowed Hornqvist to do his thing.
“It slid out to me and he came sliding across,” O’Brien said. “I knew I couldn’t shoot it. I was just going to try and bring it around him but he kept sliding toward me. It was just a reaction.
“I didn’t even think I could jump like that.”
Franson kept his feet on the ground as he created Sergei Kostitysn’s goal at 11:15 of the opening period but nearly faked Islanders’ center Frans Nielsen right out of his skates.
Franson used the move to create a shooting lane as he slid from the right boards toward the center of the ice along the blue line. Once there, he let go a wrist shot that deflected in off Kostitsyn, whose career-long points streak consequently was extended to six games.
“I just kind of tried to bit of a hip swivel and tried to get him to bite on it a little bit,” Franson said. “I just tried to pull it around him hoping that he would think I was throwing it back to the half-wall. Luckily enough it worked out.
“… (Kostitsyn) was kind of standing off to the side and I was just trying to hit him. … He was in a good spot.”
Not everything the Nashville defense did had a happy ending, though.
Kostitsyn was in the wrong spot with 5:32 to play when Shea Weber released one of his trademark blasts on net. Kostitsyn took the shot off the left skate and went to the ice before he got up and made his way to the bench.
Trotz said Kostitsyn, who has two goals and six assists during his current streak, sustained only a bruise.
A few minutes later, Weber deftly slid a pass to Nick Spaling, who finished the scoring with 1:45 to go and the Predators on a 5-on-3.
“I thought we did a pretty good job,” Weber said. “Obviously the forwards got a lot of good traffic and created a mess in front of their goalie, which was good.”
• Lindback’s current scoreless streak is 121:33, which is still well short of Dan Ellis’ franchise record (233:39). He is, however, less than a game from the second-longest stretch in team history: Pekka Rinne’s 149:04 from this past March.
“I feel like the whole team is really stable and we go out every night and do what we have to do and work really hard,” Lindback said. “So it makes it fun to play.”
He stopped 28 shots against the Islanders, six more than in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Florida.
“I thought it was a difficult night for him,” Trotz said. “A lot of the pucks were being tipped and redirected.”
• Spaling’s goal was the first of his career — in his 50th career game.
“It’s great,” he said. “I can’t stop smiling right now.”
Trotz said he put Spaling, one of the team’s best penalty killers, on that power play specifically to try to get the 22-year-old his first goal.
“When he scored, our bench went crazy,” Trotz said. “He’s just such a good player and such a good teammate.”