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Preds find offense, extend winning streak…

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The Nashville Predators have had a hard time scoring goals this season.

Tonight they sure didn’t.

The Preds beat the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in front of 15,016 at Bridgestone Arena. Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber, Marcel Goc, Cal O’Reilly and Steve Sullivan all scored to extend the Predators’ win streak to three games.

Nashville improved to 12-8-5 on the season and is slowly but surely climbing out of the Western Conference basement.

Anders Lindback, the starting goaltender for the near future, started his first game since November 7. You’ll remember that November 7 was the night of the embarrassing 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks where Paul Mara scored with less than two seconds remaining in regulation to deny the Preds even a point in the standings.

Lindback allowed a goal on the first shot he faced but then settled down and stopped 28 of the next 29, thus improving his record to 4-1-1.

Rinne was playing lights-out before his injury so the consensus was that, if the team plays tighter defensively in front of Lindback, they should be able to weather the storm while Rinne’s out of the lineup. When asked about it, Goc set the record straight.

“They’re both great goalies,” Goc said. “We know they’ve got our backs and there’s no need to play any different.”

Between November 20 and 27, Nashville couldn’t score more than two goals in any one game. As a matter of fact, they tallied just six goals in that span. Since then, however, they’ve played three games, won all three, and scored 12 goals.

So what’s the reason for the sudden offensive explosion? The star players are finally producing all at the same time. Sullivan has three points in those three games. Martin Erat has five points. O’Reilly – after a five game stretch without finding the scoresheet – has three points. Even Weber has doubled his goal total for the season.

Erat, in particular tonight, was outstanding. The chemistry he showed with Sergei Kostitsyn was incredible. Erat finished with three assists and the first star of the game honors while Kostitsyn added two helpers of his own and grabbed second star honors. Both players were a plus-three.

The offensive onslaught started early. Preds defenseman Cody Franson fired a puck on net from the half-wall and Hornqvist, as he does so often, banged home the rebound to put his team up 1-0 less than three minutes into the contest.

Joe Corvo answered just seconds later as he fired a lazy wrister on net that Lindback should’ve stopped. Was it just nerves? It appeared as if it was considering the 6’6″ Swede made some pretty solid stops after allowing that first shot to get through. He would go onto make nine saves on 10 Hurricanes shots in that opening frame.

The Preds captain would score the go ahead goal with just under 10 minutes left in the period. Erat found Weber sneaking in from the point and delivered a cross-ice pass to him at the back door. Weber made no mistake and notched the second Nashville goal.

Just minutes later, Goc found the puck on his stick in the slot and wristed a laser past Ward to make it 3-1, Preds.

Nashville finished the first period with an impressive 17 shots on goal.

In the middle frame, the Hurricanes managed to chip away at the Preds’s lead by getting a dirty goal by Jiri Tlusty. With chaos in front of Lindback, Tlusty snuck a shot by him to put his team within one.

In the third, the Predators put the final nail in the coffin with one of the prettiest plays you’ll see. Kostitsyn gained the zone and dropped a through-the-legs pass to Erat on the far side of the ice. Erat then hit a streaking O’Reilly on the near side who one-timed it past Ward. A goregous goal that ensured Nashville would win their third straight.

Sullivan would add the empty netter to shore up the scoring.

The Predators will try to make it a four game win streak in Atlanta this Monday night. A road game that will have at least 65 Nashville fans in attendance thanks to the section303.com Road Trip! We hope to see you in Hotlanta. For those not going, be sure to go to O’Charley’s in Hermitage as Monday night’s contest is an O’Charley’s Chill Out Party event.

Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.

LEFTOVER THOUGHTS:
* The band on the CMT Band Stage tonight was absolutely awful. That is all.
* O’Reilly was downright awful in the face-off dot tonight, going 3-for-17.
* This was the first game Preds fans got Wendy’s Frosty’s since November 13 versus Chicago.
* Kostitsyn’s plus-3 rating was the highest of his career since finishing with a plus-4 in a 6-5 Canadians win over the Florida Panthers on January 4, 2009.
* JP Dumont logged only 4:30 of ice time tonight. When asked if there was an injury to be blamed, Head Coach Barry Trotz simply said “No.”
* Just as the new “O O O O’Reilly” song wass debuted on Tuesday, the new “OMG (Oh My Goc)” song was debuted tonight. Mad props to the the Game Production Crew for putting these together.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on at 5:36 of the 3rd period):
1) Martin Erat (NSH)
2) Sergei Kostitsyn (NSH)
3) Cam Ward (CAR)

THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT
1) Martin Erat (NSH)
2) Sergei Kostitsyn (NSH)
3) Marcel Goc (NSH)