By Jim Diamond
Momentum can be a funny thing in hockey. When you have it, everything seems to go right and when you don’t, you get things like Saturday’s “gross” performance against the Florida Panthers as per the parlance of Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette.
Fewer than 24 hours later, the Predators came out of the gates Sunday with a metaphorical burr under their saddles against the Dallas Stars. There were some odd fights, bad penalties and just about everything else you could not imagine happening.
“I didn’t doubt that they would be ready to play tonight,” Laviolette said after the game.
Although he didn’t come right out and say it, odds are good that he strongly suggested they do so following Saturday’s performance.
Even though they were playing fairly decently Sunday, they were still down 3-0 more than halfway through the game. But then the p = mv finally turned in the Predators favor.
Roman Josi took advantage of a disturbance in front of the Dallas net to the get the Predators on the scoreboard. That disturbance came in the form of Viktor Arvidsson getting punched in the face and losing his helmet while falling to the ground in front of Kari Lehtonen.
With a power play carrying over into the third, Nashville finally caught the break they were due from the zebras when Jamie Benn was whistled for a hooking penalty at 22 seconds of the third. Josi struck again on the 5-on-3 to make it 3-2, and Calle Jarnkrok tied the game at the 4:40 mark with an impressive wrister after using Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak as a screen.
Arvidsson took an offensive zone penalty just 14 seconds after Jarnkrok’s goal, but in another twist of momentum fate, the Predators turned that into the game-winning goal.
On the Dallas power play, Tyler Seguin tried to stickhandle into the Nashville zone at the blue line. Filip Forsberg dispossessed him and was off to the races on a breakaway.
“I’m just trying to get my big feet moving to be honest with you on the blue line,” Forsberg said with a laugh. “Just trying to get some speed and it was pretty much a breakaway from the blue line. I just tried to shoot it low glove and fanned on the shot and it went five-hole. The best shot in hockey, the miss.”
Now the big challenge for the Predators will be trying to carry the momentum of Sunday’s victory through their five-day break which begins Monday. With the St. Louis Blues seeing some results since Ken Hitchcock was given the pink slip, the battle for third place in the Central Division will be tight. Also tight will be the battle for the Western Conference’s two wild card spots, which look now to be a battle between Los Angeles, Calgary, and whichever of the Blues and Predators that does not get third in the Central. Vancouver, Dallas, and Winnipeg could also get in the wild card conversation.
When they return from the break, the Predators play back-to-back road games in Minnesota and Columbus, both teams are already solidly in the playoff picture. It’s in the Predators best interest to not be gross in those games as they begin the final stretch of the season.