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Preds trade goals with Panthers, pull to .500 on the season

Preds v FLA

The Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators tied for dead last in goals scored last season. There was plenty of offense on Tuesday night, however, as the teams traded goals until the third period.

Nashville beat the struggling Panthers, 4-3, in front of 15,935 at Bridgestone Arena. The win gives the Predators a 3-3-0 record overall and a 2-1-0 record on home ice this year while Florida falls to 2-5-0.

Pekka Rinne was solid, allowing three goals on 25 shots but one of them actually deflected off of a teammate in front of the net.

“I kinda tipped it on Pekka there,” David Legwand said on the Twice Daily’s Post Game Show on 102.5 The Game. “I’ve apologized to him already.”

For just the second time this season, the Predators got on the board first. The captain, Shea Weber, backed up into some open space, wound up and blasted a slapper past Jacob Markstrom midway through the first period.

“We scored first and that’s huge,” Weber said. “We want to do that every night. Playing with the lead makes it a lot easier.”

Florida tied the game at the beginning of the middle frame on a filthy goal by Jonathan Huberdeau. Last year’s Calder Trophy winner for Rookie of the Year faked the pass to his wing along the boards and, when Kevin Klein bit, he deked around him and tucked it past Rinne to make it 1-1.

Mike Fisher gave the home team the 2-1 lead after a brilliant cross-ice pass from Craig Smith. The 14-year veteran jumped off the bench on a change and skated into the Florida zone undetected. Once Smith hit him with the pass, Fisher showed forehand, then went backhand to put it behind Markstrom.

Moments later the Panthers answered, however. Former Predator Marcel Goc bagged his third of the year after an unfortunate bounce when Victor Bartley tried to bat a puck out of the zone but, instead, batted it right into Ryan Ellis. The rebound came right to Goc who was standing at the back door. The two-time German Olympian made no mistake, tying the game at 2-2.

Nashville continued the pattern of trading goals with their marker in the opening minutes of the third. Smith carried over the blueline and fed a pass to Gabriel Bourque who was joining the attack. Bourque ripped a shot that gave Markstrom trouble and Smith, who did the right thing by going to the net after making the original pass, cashed in on the rebound. It was his first goal of the year and just his second since February 28.

“He has been playing really well,” Fisher said about Smith. “He’s hard on pucks and he had a good training camp. I think he’s just feeling confident about his game. Even when he hasn’t been putting up points, he’s been working really hard and getting and creating shots. That’s really good to see.”

His Head Coach agreed.

“I thought he was really good tonight,” Barry Trotz said. He’s been working really hard and getting some chances. Maybe a little snake bit but he got the rebound goal today and I think that’s the first rebound goal we’ve had all year.”

That pattern would be snapped minutes later, however, when Patric Hornqvist used the man advantage to bag his second of the season and put the Preds up 4-2. Filip Forsberg, Weber and Legwand played catch along the boards, eventually finding Hornqvist along the goal line. The Stockholm, Sweden, native took a step out and put an innocent backhander on net for the score.

Florida would make things interesting on a goal by Colin Wilson‘s old Boston University teammate Matt Gilroy but it was too little too late as the Predators would take this game and improve to 2-1-0 on home ice this season.

“That’s the difference in a hockey game,” Panthers Head Coach Kevin Dineen said about Nashville’s two third period goals. “It’s something that we’re trying to take out, those mistakes, and we had a tough backcheck and a goal that shouldn’t get scored.”

Speaking of home ice, Nashville has one more game on this five-game homestand. Thursday night at 7:00pm, the Preds will host the Los Angeles Kings before heading out to Canada.

Nashville now has themselves a win streak, their first since March 21-25 when they won three in a row.

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THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Craig Smith (NSH)
2. Mike Fisher (NSH)
3. Shea Weber (NSH)

ALL QUOTES for this game are courtesy of the Nashville Predators media relations staff.