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‘Relentless’ Attitude Has Turned Predators’ Biggest Weakness Into A Strength



Photo of Kiefer Sherwood, left, Cole Smith, center, and Michael McCarron by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Walking around the halls of Bridgestone Arena, seemingly every Nashville Predators player you pass, as well as head coach Andrew Brunette, is wearing a navy ball cap with the word “relentless” scrolled across the front in gold font.

Not only has that phrase become the Predators’ mantra as of late, it also best describes the way the team has played over the last month, particularly in the third period.

“We kill other team’s will in the third period by the way we play,” forward Michael McCarron said after the team’s 8-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. “Just over and over and over, do the right things, and as a result, you can see in the third periods, team are getting tired and they don’t want to keep going back for pucks. So, we’re relentless on it, and it feels good when we’re relentless because we usually come out on top.”

But Nashville’s tenacious third-period performances haven’t always been the norm.

In fact, the third period was regularly the team’s worst for the first two-thirds of the season, and it wasn’t until the Predators’ recent 14-0-2 run, in which they set a new franchise record for consecutive games with a point, that they started changing that narrative.

Through the first 54 games, the Predators had scored the seventh-fewest third-period goals (48) in the NHL and allowed the 12th-most (58). But over their last 16 games, they lead the league with 33 third-period goals scored and they’ve allowed the fifth-fewest (12).

They’re also the only team to score 30 or more goals in the final frame during that month-long span — a turnaround McCarron credits to team buying into what head coach Andrew Brunette is selling.

“I think coaching and going through [a rough patch made us better],” McCarron added. “When you lose games in the third period, it really hurts. You can’t sleep at night, it’s not great. We went through a lot of that early on and luckily we were able to learn from it. The way we play, we’ve learned that if you continue to do the right things throughout the course of the game, it eventually helps you in the third period. We’re not sitting back anymore, we’re trying to stay on offense and keep pushing. I think that’s what’s led to our success.”

The results speak for themselves.

Up until mid-February, the Predators struggled to close out games. Their win percentage when leading heading into the third period was just .773 (eight-worst int he NHL), and they had the second-most losses when leading after two periods

Nashville’s win percentage was even worse when it trailed heading into the final period (.150).

But once things started clicking, the Predators turned what used to be arguably their biggest weakness into their biggest strength.

Though they’ve been tied four times, the Predators are the only team in the NHL who haven’t trailed at the start of the third period during their 16-game point streak. In that time, they’ve racked up an NHL-high 12 wins when leading after two periods, and they haven’t lost a game in which they held the lead at the start of the third period.

“You talk about the word relentless, I think that’s what our third periods are starting to look like,” Brunette said. “We’re on top of (our opponents), there’s not a lot of space, we’re not sitting back. I think early in the year we were probably in between a little bit. We lacked confidence closing out games. Through this stretch, we’re gaining experience, we’re gaining maturity and we’re understanding certain situations.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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