Nashville Predators fans surely weren’t excited to see a fourth game of the young NHL season head to a shootout on Thursday night. After all, in three trips to the shootout this season the Predators had yet to come out victorious. That all changed Thursday, as David Legwand, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque and Sergei Kostitsyn scored in a lengthy shootout to lead the Predators past the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne got his first win of the season, stopping 23 shots. The Predators were able to stay in the game despite only registering 14 shots on goal. Nashville ranks dead last in the NHL in goals per game, and their lack of shots has a lot to do with that. A stingy defense and a top-tier goaltender can only do so much without support from their offense, and hopefully that realization is starting to hit home for the Predators. Rinne has a 1-2-3 record this season, but a respectable 2.37 GAA. Martin Erat leads the team with two goals and four points. That’s right, after seven games someone is leading an NHL team with just four points! The Nashville power play was silent for the fourth straight game Thursday, and is now 0-for-12 during that stretch.
With limited options and little star power up front, the Predators rely on their defense, maybe more than they should. Now that Rinne has shown he can survive a shootout, can the rest of the Predators elevate their game as well? If they hope to return to the playoffs out of a stacked Central Division, they have to.