Quick starts lift Predators over Avalanche
DENVER -- The Nashville Predators limped into November after three straight losses. They head into December on a roll thanks to their quick-strike offense.
Ryan Johansen scored a goal in the first minute of the third period and assisted on another goal seven seconds into the second, and the Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Austin Watson had a goal and an assist and Mike Fisher, Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala also scored. Roman Josi had two assists and Pekka Rinne made 37 saves for the Predators.
Nashville finished 9-3-2 in November.
“We all feel like we’re coming together as a team,” Rinne said. “It’s a good feeling in the locker room right now.”
Nashville (11-8-3) scored four of its five goals in the first few minutes of the second and third periods to win for the fourth time in five games.
“That was the game tonight. The start of the periods -- that was the difference,” Rinne said. “We were ready and I guess they weren‘t.”
Rene Bourque and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist apiece and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored for Colorado (9-11-1), which is 4-6-1 at home. Calvin Pickard stopped 28 shots.
“You can’t give up a goal in the first 10 seconds of the second period,” Bourque said. “That’s the difference.”
The Avalanche lost three straight and are firmly in the Central Division cellar.
“Everyone’s got to look at themselves in the mirror and realize we have to be better (as) individuals,” Matt Duchene said. “It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys -- it’s a lot of guys. It’s different guys each night. Very rarely have we had, however many guys we have, 21, 22 guys, pulling in the same direction for a full 60.”
The Predators led 3-2 after two when Johansen scored 34 seconds into the third period when he deked defenseman Patrick Wiercioch and beat Pickard. Watson made it 5-2 with his first goal of the season at 2:42.
“That felt good,” said Johansen, who scored his fifth goal of the season. “We knew we had to come out flying in the third and had a couple of big goals at the start which is obviously huge.”
Grigorenko scored at 4:02 to get Colorado within 5-3. Pickard came off for an extra skater with 1:52 remaining and the Avalanche got seven shots on Rinne but couldn’t score.
Duchene said the skaters hung Pickard “out to dry” but the goaltender took responsibility for the goals.
“I don’t think I was hung out to dry,” he said. “You’re going to have to face some point-blank shots and some big chances, I just have to find a way to make a couple big saves.”
Nashville scored seven seconds into the second period to go ahead 2-1. Johansen won the opening faceoff back to P.K. Subban, and he hit Arvidsson with a pass at the Colorado blue line. His quick shot as he entered the Avalanche zone beat Pickard high.
“That was huge as well,” Johansen said. “Great play by Subby, great play by Arvi to break through the (defense) and put it top shelf. That was a big goal for us.”
Fiala made it 3-1 at 3:04 when he flipped Josi’s rebound over Pickard for his third of the season. The Avalanche got one back late in the second when Bourque deflected Nikita Zadarov’s shot past Rinne at 16:25. It was Bourque’s team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Fisher gave Nashville the early lead after Colorado defenseman Zadarov turned it over in his own zone. Watson got the puck to Fisher and his low shot beat Pickard at 14:52 of the first.
The Avalanche got even later in the period. Fedor Tyutin’s shot from the point was tipped by Bourque in front of the net, and it bounced behind Rinne. Rantanen knocked it in for his third at 15:58.
NOTES: Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has said he is day-to-day, but Landeskog has not skated since Friday and there is no timetable for his return. ... Predators D Ryan Ellis missed his third straight game, RW James Neal was out for the second consecutive game and C Colton Sissons was out for the third straight game. All three are on injured reserve. ... Avalanche G Semyon Varlamov (wrist) was dressed and served as Calvin Pickard’s backup after being scratched Saturday. ... Nashville killed off all 27 penalties at home this season. It is the only team to have a 100 percent kill rate at home or on the road.