CALGARY – Since losing 5-0 to the Calgary Flames at home on Nov. 30, the Nashville Predators have been one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League.
With a 5-3 win over the Flames on Saturday afternoon, the Predators (22-11-3) avenged the loss to Calgary and improved their record to 7-1-2 since that setback.
“Any time you get beat at home, especially the way we got beat, it sort of brings clarity into what you don’t want to do,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “We sort of got our game back in order once that happened.”
After losing their last five games against the Flames dating back to last season, the Predators had extra motivation heading into Saturday.
“We wanted to prove that we could play against them,” said defenceman Dan Hamhuis. “I thought we played pretty well tonight. Our goaltending kept us in it at the end there. They had a lot of chances.”
In their past four games, all wins, the Predators have used a balanced scoring attack to score 23 goals.
Forwards Marcel Goc and Martin Erat led the way for Nashville on Saturday with a goal and two assists each, while defenceman Cory Franson counted the game-wining goal in the third period and added an assist. David Legwand and Dave Scatchard added singles, while Joel Ward had a pair of assists.
“Early in the year, we tried to play way too perimeter, a little too cute,” Trotz said. “We got back to very basic hockey. Now it’s throw some pucks on the net and go to the hard areas and you get rewarded. That’s what most teams do in our league now.”
Jarome Iginla scored twice and set up another for the Flames (20-11-4) to break out of an eight-game goal-scoring drought. Dion Phaneuf also scored, while Olli Jokinen had two assists.
“It was a game that we definitely feel we should have gotten two points out of,” said Iginla, whose two second-period goals gave the Flames a 3-2 lead. “We’ve got ourselves in a bit of a rut where in third periods we’re not closing it out and finding ways to get points out of it and wins.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter was pleased that the Flames rebounded from an early 2-0 deficit, but upset his squad couldn’t defend the lead once they got it.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” Sutter said. “You’re up 3-2 at home, you’ve got to win, bottom line. We played a team here that’s been playing some pretty good hockey. We had an opportunity to win tonight and we let it get by us because of some mistakes. We made some turnovers that you can’t make.”
Nashville goalie Dan Ellis stopped 29 shots to record his third win in a row and improve his record to 8-5-1 on the season. At the other end, Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff didn’t have one of his better games of the season as he surrendered four goals on 19 shots.
The Predators opened the scoring on their first shot of the game when Erat took a pass from Jerred Smithson in the slot and beat Kiprusoff through the five-hole.
A short time later, Calgary forward Rene Bourque had a great scoring chance while the Flames were shorthanded, but Ellis slid across his net to make a pad save.
Just one second after a penalty to Calgary’s David Moss expired, Legwand swatted a rebound past Kiprusoff to put the Predators up 2-0 at 12:30 of the opening frame.
Just 71 seconds later, the Flames replied with their first goal of the game when Phaneuf’s point shot deflected off Nashville forward Nick Spaling and into the top corner behind Ellis.
A spirited fight between Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan and Nashville pugilist Wade Belak early in the second period seemed to spark the Flames. Shortly after McGrattan raised his arms in the air to signify that he won, Iginla took a pass from Curtis Glencross and roofed a shot to the blocker side past Ellis.
Iginla then gave the Flames a 3-2 lead at 10:45 of the middle frame when he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick before banking a shot into the Nashville net off Hamhuis.
“I kind of had a rough second period there,” admitted Hamhuis. “Thankfully my teammates picked me up and we got some goals to come out with the win.”
Nashville tied the game up before the second intermission when Goc backhanded a rebound into the net over Kiprusoff’s glove hand.
Franson then put the Predators up 4-3 at 4:41 of the final period when his point shot through traffic eluded Kiprusoff.
The Flames poured on the pressure in an attempt to tie the game and force overtime, but couldn’t find a way to get the puck past Ellis.
“We had some chances after in the last four or five minutes of the game, but the pucks just weren’t bouncing for us,” Sutter said.
Scatchard then rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Notes: Calgary defenceman Robyn Regehr suited up for his 700th NHL contest, all with the Flames. a The Predators played without injured forwards Jason Arnott (upper body) and Jordan Tootoo (broken foot), while the Flames were without defenceman Cory Sarich (lower body). a With the win, the Predators now have an all-time record of 19-18-6 against the Flames.