Two days off in Southern California served the Nashville Predators (25-19-1) well.
Following a 4-1 loss Monday to the Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville responded with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings (21-13-8) at Crypto.com Arena Thursday night, gaining at least a temporary grip on the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference having won six of its last nine outings.
With every game you take the good with the bad, so here’s a look at what went right and what didn’t in the Predators’ win over the Kings.
(+) Jusse Saros finding his old form
Predators goaltender Juuse Saros hasn’t looked like himself at times this season. He’s been pulled from five games due to poor performance and, during one stretch from late December to early January, he surrendered five goals in four of five consecutive starts.
But the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy finalist seems to be shaking off his recent slump. He made 33 saves on 34 shots against the Kings, in addition to stopping 25-of-28 in the loss to Vegas and 24-of-25 during a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Jan. 13.
Saros was at his best in the waning moments of Thursday’s game. The Kings peppered him with shots after pulling goalie David Rittich for a 6-on-5 advantage, but Saros turned away three Los Angeles attempts in the final minute – with assistance on one from defenseman Roman Josi, who batted away a loose puck hanging over the crease with 24 seconds left in regulation (video via ESPN+ broadcast).
(+) Top forward line delivers again
What more can be said of Predators linemates Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly and Gustav Nyquist? The trio has been one of the NHL’s most productive groups and they rank third in the league in goals, per Money Puck.
With one tally apiece against the Kings, O’Reilly (17) and Nyquist (12) each surpassed their season goal totals from last season.
O’Reilly tipped in a wrist shot from Josi on the power play shortly after hustling to backcheck and break up a 2-on-1 Kings rush 7:56 into the second period. L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty notched a power-play goal of his own less than one minute later, though Nyquist put the Predators back in front when he scored on a rebound shot at the 13:40 mark.
Forsberg wasn’t able to bury any of his chances, but Nashville’s leading scorer still made Rittich work with six shots on goal and three others that missed the net.
ROR GOAL pic.twitter.com/hEkfY9DVwQ
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) January 19, 2024
(-) Insurance goal never came
There’s not much to nitpick here other than perhaps the margin of victory. By not adding a third goal, the Predators allowed the desperate Kings to stick around until the final seconds.
Los Angeles entered 1-5-4 in its previous 10 games and needed points to keep from slipping further down the Pacific Division standings and maintain its hold on the No. 1 wild-card spot. The Predators instead leapfrogged the Kings, who have played three fewer games.
(+) Cody Glass solid in return to the lineup
Predators center Cody Glass finally dressed after being a healthy scratch for most of the last three weeks.
His presence alone was a positive sign considering the injuries and subsequent confidence issues he’s battled this season. Glass has just one goal and one assist across 18 games – a far cry from the 35-point breakout campaign he enjoyed last year.
Glass played aggressively in the early going and drew a cross-checking penalty from Los Angeles defenseman Matt Roy in the first period. He also blocked one shot, had one takeaway and won four faceoffs.
Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.