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Preds capitalize on fatigued Islanders

The New York Islanders were fresh off their 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night. And it showed.

The Nashville Predators staved off the weary Isles, beating them 3-2 in front of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.

Pekka Rinne was solid once again tonight, turning aside just 14 shots but stayed sharp while seeing very little activity.

The back-to-backs weighed on the Islanders. They expended a ton of energy trying to get the equalizer throughout the second half of the game against Chicago last night and then for pretty much all of the third period tonight.

“At times we were real sluggish coming off of yesterday,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “It factors in but that’s no excuse. You’ve got to find a way to win. We got our opportunities but this is one we let slip away.”

For the first time this season, the Preds got on the board first. On a power play early in the middle frame, David Legwand fed Seth Jones a cross-ice pass and the fourth overall pick in this past summer’s draft blasted it past Evgeni Nabokov on the short side for his first NHL goal.

“It feels unbelievable,” Jones said. “We were working the puck around pretty well on the power play and I got a good pass from Legwand. I just kind of wound up and shot it and hoped for the best.”

Midway through the period, New York answered. Kyle Okposo went into the corner but kept his head up while winning the race for the puck and, as a result, noticed center Frans Nielsen breaking into the zone late. Nielsen cradled the pass, picked his spot and wristed a laser past Rinne from the slot to knot the game at 1-1.

Moments later, Tavares used his unbelievable hockey sense to make it 2-1. The top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft tried to do a give-and-go with Okposo but Shea Weber went down for the block. Tavares then one-timed the rebound past Rinne who was still in the motion of playing the pass.

“Kyle was really strong on the wall,” Tavares said. “I tried to get it back to him by going underneath the defenseman’s stick. I probably should have gone over it but it worked out. I saw that Rinne moved off the post because of the pass so I just put it off him.”

But then the Isles started to fade. On a breakout, Colin Wilson made a nice off-the-boards pass up to Patric Hornqvist so he could get behind the defense. The newly named alternate captain dipped his shoulder and ripped a shot past Nabokov to tie the game headed into the locker room.

Ryan Ellis gave the home team the lead in the opening moments of the third. When he was in junior, he was known for his blistering slapshots. Roughly three minutes into the final frame, he wound up and blew a puck past Nabokov for his first goal since February 5 of last season and the eventual game-winner on Saturday.

“It was really nice to help the team,” Ellis said. “Then we won the game which was most important. It felt great.”

The visitors had a chance to get back in it in when Matt Hendricks went to the box for high-sticking, giving the Isles a four minute power play. But New York couldn’t cash in as their fatigue showed, Rinne was solid, the defense played well and the Preds even had some chances shorthanded.

“We had a four minute power play that didn’t generate much which is not good enough,” Tavares said. “We got ourselves the lead but didn’t do a good job of sustaining that momentum.”

“We did a really good job in the second with the goal late in the period,” Hornqvist said. “We came out flying in the third and played the way we needed to in order to win and get the points.”

And get points they did. The Predators have secured four of a possible six points during this five-game homestand with games against the struggling Florida Panthers and the Los Angeles Kings who have scored the second-fewest goals in the Pacific Division.

“The two points from tonight were a huge game changer,” Ellis said. “And we have two more games at home.”

Puck drops against the Panthers on Tuesday at 7:00pm.


MY THREE STARS (as voted with 5:45 left in regulation)
1. Ryan Ellis (NSH)
2. Seth Jones (NSH)
3. Kyle Okposo (NYI)

1. Seth Jones (NSH)
2. Ryan Ellis (NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Austin Stanley // 102.5 The Game (used with permission)