Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette isn’t one to sit on a pat hand if his team’s struggling. His latest batch of line changes prior to Tuesday night’s game may have unearthed a new No. 1 line.
The combination of Filip Forsberg, center Ryan Johansen and James Neal single-handedly erased a 3-0 second period deficit to the St. Louis Blues with goals that sparked a 6-3 comeback win at Bridgestone Arena.
They combined to try 22 shots, 12 of which made it to net, and consistently drove play for most of the last two periods. Laviolette is hoping for more of the same Thursday night when Nashville hosts the Minnesota Wild.
“They got going, and they were generating a lot,” Laviolette said of Tuesday night. “They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. We got zone starts that started in our favor. If you’re in the offensive zone already, you can start generating. If you’re in the defensive zone, you have to figure out how to get through two zones just to get to the O-zone.”
Getting to the O-zone against Minnesota is one thing. Beating Devan Dubnyk has been another. The big goalie has been on some kind of run this season, continuing it Tuesday night in a 5-1 home victory over Florida by stopping 29 shots.
Dubnyk (14-6-3) lowered his goals-against average to a miniscule 1.60 and stopped nearly 95 percent of the shots thrown at him this season. Thanks in large part to his brilliance, the Wild (16-8-4) have won five straight.
“We need to keep climbing,” Dubnyk said. “It’s exciting to be in this spot with games in hand as well, and again those games don’t matter unless we win them. But it’s still a good situation to be in and winning is fun, so you’ve got to keep doing it.”
Another encouraging sign for Minnesota on Tuesday night was the play of Zach Parise. The left winger broke a seven-game goal drought while also pouring six shots on goal, taking the puck away five times and blocking two shots.
First-year Wild coach Bruce Boudreau called Parise’s performance exceptional.
“It was good to see him get one early,” Boudreau said. “He had opportunities. I thought he played a really good game. He was really blocking shots, especially in the first period when we really needed it.”
A struggling Predator also took strides in the right direction Tuesday night. Forsberg tallied only his third goal in 28 games and was all over the ice, trying 11 shots in 19:02 of ice time and looking as dangerous as he has all season.
It was his first marker since a Nov. 23 victory over Dallas and left Laviolette with hope that this might be the game which sparks Forsberg, who last season tied a franchise high with 33 goals.
“I really liked his game tonight,” Laviolette said of Forsberg. “I really liked that he was finding his opportunities. He had 11 shots at the net. That kind of aggressive play will lead to the results.”
This is the season’s first meeting of the Central Division rivals, who play five times this season, three in Nashville. That could be an edge for the Predators (13-11-4), who are 10-2-2 at home and averaging nearly four goals per game.
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