Predators withstand barrage of shots in victory over Flyers

Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 10:51pm

Precision was not the order of the day.

The Nashville Predators’ 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday was more a study on the cumulative effects of volume and velocity. Both teams started fast, skated hard and looked to create a single scoring chance out of multiple shots.

“When you drive the net hard and put pucks there, good things will happen,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s pretty similar to what Philadelphia does as a team. They really put pucks to the blue paint.”

The Predators actually were outshot 38-25 but never trailed. They scored the game’s first two goals, beginning with one by Martin Erat on a power play in the final minute of the first period, and got the game-winner from Nick Spaling 4:30 into the final period.

Spaling’s goal was so imprecise, though, that even he could not say for sure how he scored it. The only thing certain was that a centering pass from Jordin Tootoo deflected off of him and into the net to make it 3-1.

“I’m not sure – right in the body, I don’t know where exactly,” Spaling said. “It just hit me somewhere right in there.

“… It was a little bit of a lucky bounce.”

Erat, Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher all finished with a goal and an assist.

The victory was Nashville’s fourth straight and seventh in the last eight games. Philadelphia had won four of its last five and entered the contest as the league’s second highest scoring team in terms of goals per game.

 “We wanted to come out and have a good start,” captain Shea Weber said. “That’s one of the best teams in the East, and we needed to try and set the tempo and play our style of game.”

Tempo never was an issue.

Through the opening 4:15, the teams combined for 11 shots – five by Nashville, six by Philadelphia. It looked like the Predators took a 1 -0 lead at 4:47 of the opening period, but a video review determined that a kick by Gabriel Bourque produced the goal.

The Flyers continued to rack up shots, particularly in the second period, when they had a 13-6 advantage. They had four shots on a second-period power play in which they had the puck in the offensive end the full two minutes never allowed Nashville’s penalty killers – Spaling, Weber, Ryan Suter and Matt Halischuk – to change.

“They couldn’t get out of there but they did a great job blocking a few shots and just kind of stayed in a tight box, helped each other and talked a lot,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “That’s how we have to play when times get desperate.

“The guys did a great job.”

It was not the way anyone wanted to do it, but it worked.

Briefly

• Rookie forward Craig Smith missed a game for the first time because of illness. Center Chris Mueller was recalled from Milwaukee for the second time this season and replaced Smith.

Mueller played 15:51, had one shot on goal and won two of four faceoffs.

“The more he plays the more comfortable he is and the ore comfortable we are with him,” Trotz said.

Suter and Halischuk are now the only Nashville players who have appeared in every game this season.

• Jerred Smithson (upper body) missed his third straight game and was added to injured reserve to make room for Mueller.

Trotz said Smithson likely would accompany the team on its three-game trip to New York next week but probably would not play in any of the games.

• Kostitsyn has scored a goal in back-to-back games for the first time this season.