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Nashville Predators

The Predators Have Become The Team No One Wants To Face



Photo of Roman Josi by John Russell/Nashville Predators

As Roman Josi skated through the crease with all three Vegas Golden Knights defenders to his back, the 17,000-plus in attendance at Bridgestone Arena collectively held their breath.

Josi slid the puck out of reach of defenseman Shea Theodore and just past the outstretched right skate of goaltender Jiri Patera, fended off Jack Eichel and then pushed the puck into a wide-open net, sealing a 5-4 overtime win and extend the Nashville Predators franchise-record point streak to 18 games.

It was a game the Predators probably shouldn’t have won.

They were out-classed in the first period, Juuse Saros was getting out-dueled by a 25-year-old rookie goaltender who was making just his fifth start of the season, and Nashville trailed entering the third period for the first time since Feb. 17.

And yet, none of it seemed to matter.

The Predators top line (Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist) accounted for three goals in a seven-minute span in the third period, erasing a three-goal deficit and giving Josi just enough time to pad his Norris Trophy-worthy resume with his 19th goal of the season — top among all NHL defensemen.

Tuesday’s win wasn’t just impressive in the fact that the Predators won their sixth straight game, or that they haven’t lost in regulation in over five weeks, or even that they’re 16-0-2 in their last 18 games.

While all notable feats, Thursday’s win showcased exactly why the Predators are the team nobody wants to see.

They have the offense to come back from multi-goal deficits, the defense and goaltending to keep them in games, a head coach that is pushing all the right buttons, and a roster that simply wears the opposition down late in games, regardless of what the score is.

“Being down 3-0, I think it’s easy as a team to go, ‘It’s probably not our game, it was bound to happen,’” Josi said. “But we just stuck with it, and it shows a lot of character that we’re like, ‘Hey, we can come back in this game, we’re not done, we’ve got to stick to our game.’ Even after we’re down 4-1 going into the third, we knew if we played the way we have been we’d have a chance to come back. And obviously, the ending was pretty good.

“…There’s a lot of belief. There’s a lot of confidence in this room. There’s a lot of trust in our game. … We’re not going to have it every night, but I think we showed, especially in the last couple of games, there’s times where we maybe didn’t have it as much but we found a way to get it back.”

Oh, and apparently the Predators are near invincible in the third period now too.

During their 18-game point streak, they lead the NHL with 37 third-period goals and they’ve surrendered the third-fewest third-period goals (12). They’re also the only team without a loss when trailing after two periods, which has happened just once.

“We’ve built a reputation on our third periods here lately,” Forsberg said. “Most of them have been kind of pulling away when we have the lead going in or tying it up or whatever, going quick. This one was a little tougher of a challenge going into it, but the boys answered the bell.”

Added head coach Andrew Brunette: “This was a great opportunity for our group to grow a little bit going into the third period, because there are going to be times when you’re down. Let’s see if we can just chip away at it without losing our identity, without getting away from what makes us successful. And I thought the group responded incredibly.”

The ovation from the crowd once Josi’s game-winner crossed the line and the goal horn sounded gave off 2017 vibes. Though COVID played a small role, it had been a long time since Bridgestone Arena was as loud as it was on Tuesday night.

“That’s what you play for,” Josi said. “We scored one and they got loud, and we scored another one and they got louder. And then obviously we tied it up and I think everybody was standing the rest of the game. And as a player, you need to soak these moments in because they’re fun and they’re awesome.”

Despite a below-.500 home record a little over a month ago, the Predators are 7-0-1 in their last eight home games, and they went from having a bottom-five record in the NHL in their home barn to being one of 14 teams with 21 or more home wins.

“It’s an electric place to play,” Brunette added. “As an opposing player and being on the home side, when it gets going like that, especially in the third period, it’s a pretty special place.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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