CALGARY – The Nashville Predators swept their way through Western Canada thanks in part to Patrick Hornqvist’s recent hot hand.
Hornqvist scored at 13:38 of the third period to lead the Predators over the Calgary Flames 1-0 on Friday night, giving Nashville its third straight win, all against Northwest Division opponents.
Hornqvist now has six goals in his last six contests and has potted the game-winner in back-to-back games as Nashville (29-16-3) beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Monday and the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 the next night.
“Everything’s going right for me,” said Hornqvist, who swatted a pass from Steve Sullivan past Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
“It wasn’t really even a good opportunity to score, but Sully made a good pass and it went in. I’m getting lots of good bounces right now. I’ve got to keep going in front of the net and work hard every night and hopefully get good bounces next game too.”
Chosen with the last overall selection (230th) in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Hornqvist now has six game-winning goals this season.
“They’ve given me lots of chances here,” said the 5-foot-11, 194-pound forward, who hails from Sollentuna, Sweden. “You have to take the opportunities that they give you too.”
Nashville goalie Dan Ellis, who stopped all 22 shots he faced for his first shutout of the year, commended Hornqvist for making the most of his opportunities.
“Hornqvist has been one of our best players this year,” Ellis said. “We can always count on him to be aggressive, to get in front of the net, to cause havoc and to score big goals. Tonight was just another one of those nights for him.”
The Flames (26-16-6) have now lost three straight games at home and have gone 1-4-1 in their past six games. Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has failed to register a point in that span.
“We’ve got the defensive side of the game going very well, we’re getting great goaltending, guys are blocking a lot of shots and getting the shots down,” Iginla said.
“It’s no secret we need to score goals. It’s obviously a tough drought, but you’ve got to stay positive. Keep believing it’s going to go the next shift, the next game and it will.”
Kiprusoff, who made 20 saves in a losing cause, is optimistic the Flames can turn things around heading into road games against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday and the San Jose Sharks the next night.
“We’re having a tough time scoring goals right now but it will change,” Kiprusoff said. “Look at our lineup, we have a lot of guys who can score goals so probably next game it will open up and we’ll be fine.”
The Flames recorded the first two shots of the game before the Predators fired eight shots in a row at Kiprusoff, who was forced to make some nice saves to keep the game scoreless.
“He made some incredible saves, especially early in the game,” said Ellis of his goaltending counterpart. “He was a rock for them like he has been all year.”
After making pad saves on quality scoring chances by Nashville forwards Cal O’Reilly and Ryan Jones, Kiprusoff made a great glove grab on a shot from the slot by J.P. Dumont.
Late in the first period, Calgary forward David Moss spotted a wide-open Olli Jokinen in the slot and flipped a pass out front to him from behind the Nashville net. Jokinen took a quick shot on net, but Ellis stood his ground and kicked the puck out of harm’s way.
Mid way through the second period, the Predators almost hit the scoresheet when Martin Erat set up David Legwand for a one-timer, but Kiprusoff made a blocker save to thwart the veteran Nashville forward.
In the third, the Flames had a great chance of their own when Jokinen broke into the Nashville zone on the left wing and fired a shot off the far post.
“He found the tiny little part that was open and fortunately he hit the outside of the post instead of the inside,” Ellis said.
NOTES: Calgary’s Brian McGrattan and Nashville’s Wade Belak dropped the gloves early in the first period for their third fight against each other this season. … Calgary leads the league in fighting majors with 50, while Nashville is last in the NHL with 13, five of them courtesy of Belak. … Nashville captain Jason Arnott missed his fourth straight game with an upper body injury.