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Predators vs. Panthers Plus/Minus: Lankinen, Top Line Put On a Show



Photo of Gustav Nyquist by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers wasn’t just a measuring-stick win for the Nashville Predators, it was also a historic one.

The Predators fourth straight win, which was also Andrew Brunette’s first against his former team as a head coach, extended their point streak to 16 consecutive games — a new franchise record.

With every game you take the good with the bad, so here’s what went right and what didn’t during the Predators shutout win over the Panthers on Thursday.

(+) Kevin Lankinen’s masterful performance

It was nearly three years to the day that Lankinen recorded his last shutout when he was a 24-year-old rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks. Against Florida, he saved all 33 shots, including 30 at even strength, and he held an offense that averages 3.22 goals per game off the scoreboard.

It wasn’t just that Lankinen kept the Panthers from scoring, it was the caliber of saves he was making that made everyone take notice.

His first notable save came a little past the midway point in the second period. After a Dmitry Kulikov long-distance wrist shot was blocked by the traffic in front of the net, Lankinen had to track the puck with three bodies in front of him and quickly slide back to his right to stop Evan Rodrigues, who had a point-blank shot at an open net.


Less than four minutes later, Lankinen again had to be on his toes. Rodrigues broke in on a partial breakaway and fed a cross-ice pass to Sam Bennett. Lankinen blocked his shot with his chest and smothered Niko Mikkola’s follow-up shot despite having four skaters screening him directly in front of the crease.


His third big moment — and arguably his biggest — came five minutes into the third period. As the Panthers skated in on the rush, Carter Verhaeghe cut over to the left faceoff circle and fired off a centering pass for Matthew Tkachuk. Thanks to his quick reaction, Lankinen slid to his left, making a pad save and following up to stop Tkachuk’s rebound attempt as he crashed the net.


(+) Top-line dominance

Playing the third-best team in the NHL, the Predators needed to be on their game. And that typically is the case when their top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly and Gustav Nyquist is clicking on all cylinders.

The trio have accounted for 35% of Nashville’s goals and 32% of its total points this season, and they showed up in a big way against Florida, combining for all three goals (Two by Forsberg, one by Nyquist), seven points, eight shots and four takeaways. O’Reilly (18:40), Nyquist (18:20) and Forsberg (18:02) skated the most minutes of any Predators forwards, and they along with the fourth line, were used more in the third period to control the pace of the game.

Photo via X (@hockeystatcards)

(-) Predators out-hit for the sixth straight game

Granted, the Panthers lead the NHL in hits, but two weeks ago the Predators did. Six games and one Jeremy Lauzon injury later, they’ve been out-muscled for the sixth consecutive game. The Predators are 5-0-1 in those games, but they’ve been out-hit 200-147. It’s not affecting their wins and losses, but for a team that prides itself on being tenacious and physically imposing, the Predators need to find their edge again.

(+) Penalty kill showed up

Given how good the Panthers’ power play is — they rank third in the NHL (26.2%), behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (28.2%) and Edmonton Oilers (26.4%) — and how bad the Predators’ penalty kill has been — they rank 23rd (76.7%) — holding Florida to 0-for-2 on the man advantage is a big win.

With dangerous power-play scorers like Sam Reinhart, Tkachuk and Verhaeghe, the Predators limited the Panthers to just three shots on their two power-play opportunities and smothered their usually potent offense.

(All videos courtesy of the ESPN+ broadcast)

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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