Mikael Granlund made sure the Nashville Predators started their road trip 2-for-2.
The forward recorded his second consecutive game-winning goal, as the Predators topped the Calgary Flames, 3-2, on Thursday night at Scotiabank Saddledome and kicked off their four-game road trip with two victories in two stops.
The wins provide an ideal start to the excursion for the Preds, and at a time where every single point is paramount, Nashville is finding ways to collect them with some regularity.
“There’s a lot of teams who are in the same position as everybody, grinding for every single point, and you know these games are going to be tight games,” Granlund said. “We just have to find a way to get out of those games with points, and we’ve been doing that lately.”
“We knew coming in, it was going to be a hard-fought battle, and I thought that we were up for the task tonight,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “We played well, and I particularly liked our third period. I thought coming in with the lead in the third period, that Calgary’s going to be able to make a push, but I thought our battle level [was great]. Our focus level, our attention to detail was strong in that period. We made decisions that allow you to be able to play well with a lead.”
For the second-straight game, the visitors were able to overcome giving up a goal in the opening minutes. Seventy-six seconds after Sam Bennett put the Flames ahead on their first shot on goal, Preds Captain Roman Josi led the rush and threw a pass over to Dante Fabbro, who snapped home a shot to even the score. The helper gave Josi his 400th career point – a mark that didn’t last long, as he hit No. 401 before the game ended.
The milestone saw Josi become just the second Swiss player in NHL history to reach 400 points, a feat he now shares with one of his idols.
“That’s pretty cool,” Josi said. “Mark Streit, he was always my big idol. He was the first one who really made the NHL as a player, and I think it opened up a lot of doors for us young players.”
Midway through the first frame, Kyle Turris got his seventh of the season by crashing the net, and the Preds took a 2-1 advantage into the first intermission. Mattias Ekholm charged into the crease and placed a rebound chance right back at the net, off Turris’s skate and into the cage.
“It seems like this whole road trip now, starting in Winnipeg, they’re a point ahead of us going into the game, and tonight, Calgary was three ahead of us, and then Edmonton, Vancouver, they’re all right ahead of us,” Turris said. “We’re coming together. We’re finding ways to win.”
Nashville’s lead swelled to 3-1 midway through the contest after Granlund converted on the Predators’ one and only power-play chance of the evening. Granlund poked home a loose puck sitting behind Flames goaltender Cam Talbot for his fifth goal in his last eight outings.
Rasmus Andersson got the Flames back into the contest at 11:06 with his fourth goal of the season, but the Predators never surrendered the lead they earned in the first period. Making his second-straight start, Juuse Saros notched 37 saves for his third win in a row overall.
“He was awesome, especially in the second and third,” Josi said of Saros. “They had some really good looks, and he was great. He was great tonight, and he definitely won that game for us.”
Only a point out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot to end the night, the mantra is simple for the Predators: onto Edmonton. The showdown on Saturday night (at 6 p.m. CT) will provide Nashville the opportunity to claw back into playoff positioning and could be their third-straight win, something they haven’t done since October.
“We’re coming around and getting a little bit more consistency to our game,” Hynes said. “Mentally, our attention to detail, our push back and certain components of the game is something we really addressed. I still think there’s so much more than that… It’s nice that we’ve been able to find ways to win. I think it builds belief, it builds confidence, but we’re doing enough things to win games. The exciting thing, as a coach, is I still think there’s more here.”
Calle Jarnkrok, who missed the previous three games due to illness, took part in Nashville’s morning skate on Thursday, but did not play against the Flames. Austin Watson and Matt Irwin were also scratched for the Preds.
Nashville will continue their four-game trip on Saturday evening in Edmonton against the Oilers (6 p.m. CT; on Thunder Radio) before wrapping up in Vancouver on Monday night.