Give. Go. Goal.
It was that simple for the Nashville Predators when they extended their win streak to six games Tuesday with a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild before 15,311 at Bridgestone Arena.
David Legwand and Joel Ward executed slightly different versions of that 3G concept but the singular message was crystal clear: When one gives up the puck, the best thing to do is head for the net and look for that puck to be returned.
That approach sustained them until the third period, when the Predators poured it on with three goals, all of which were scored largely through individual effort.
“The third period we shut them down and they didn’t really have too many chances,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “… We came big in the third and scored a few goals. That was the momentum change right there.”
It was the third time in four games they scored three in a period.
Nashville now has scored four or more goals in five of the six games in the current streak, their longest since last March, and has outscored the opposition 24-7 over that stretch.
“It’s all about momentum and confidence,” Ward said. “We just have a lot of confidence. We know we had a good [road] trip [last week], but we don’t dwell on that. We just kind of think about what’s going on right now and take it period by period.”
They scored at least once in each period of this contest and in all but three of the last 18.
Legwand got it started against Minnesota when he came through the neutral zone with speed and laid a soft pass off to his left for Marek Svatos. Legwand continued into the offensive end and down the slot with his stick on the ice. When Svatos fed a pass his way, the puck simply deflected off his stick and into the Minnesota net.
Ward already was in the offensive zone when he got the puck off a cycle. Unchecked in the high slot, he dropped a pass back to the blue line for Kevin Klein and headed for the crease. Klein let go a shot, and Ward stuff home the rebound for a 2-1 Nashville advantage just 62 seconds into the second period.
“Those are good goals,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You look at Legwand’s first goal, driving through the middle, Svatos hit with him with a pass, he just redirected it and it went in the net. If you go to the net and you go to the blue paint, you’re going to be rewarded.”
Nick Spaling broke form when he started the third period onslaught (the Predators outshot the Wild 14-5 over the final 20 minutes) with an unassisted goal 4:18 after the second intermission. Marcel Goc capped the night with an unassisted goal of his own with 7:07 to play.
In between, Spaling notched the first multi-goal game of his career when he whacked repeatedly at the puck and jammed it through several Wild players during a scramble for a rebound.
“Giving up the third goal was a dagger,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “When you’re down by one, you’re pushing and you’re still hoping.”
Once they gave up the third, the Predators were gone.
• Legwand has scored goals in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 31, 2009, and Jan. 2, 2010, and has racked up five points (two goals, three assists) in six games since his return from an extensive injury absence.
“We need production from Leggy, and he’s starting to score, which is good,” Trotz said. “We expect that out of him.”
• Ward’s last goal was Dec. 31 — at Minnesota.
The Wild signed him to his first pro contract following four seasons in the Canadian college ranks. He spent the better part of three seasons with their AHL affiliate in Houston before Nashville signed him as free agent prior to 2008-09.
Ward had no goals in eight appearances against Minnesota prior to this season.
• Sergei Kostitsyn’s streaks of five games with a goal and six games with at least a point both ended.
He has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) over his last 19 games, a stretch which also included an eight-game point streak.