Nashville, Tenn—Losers of five straight games and seven of their last nine, the Nashville Predators finally pulled out a win and put at least a momentary halt to their current losing streak, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 in the Sommet Center Thursday night.
It didn't hurt that Pittsburgh has lost six of their last seven.
The game didn't start off well for the Predators. In fact, it looked to be more of the same, with Nashville falling behind 1-0 at the end of the first period, and Pittsburgh scoring twice in 21 seconds before four minutes had passed in the second quarter.
That was the end of the night for beleaguered goalie Dan Ellis. Nashville coach Barry Trotz yanked Ellis after the second goal, after which backup Pekka Rinne immediately gave up the first shot against him.
Rinne had been solid early in the year, but his four-game losing streak looked poised to extend to five.
Things did not look good for the Predators. In their last five games, they have struggled to put more than one point on the board. The second period had barely started and they were down by three.
But something got into Nashville, and they reeled off five unanswered goals en route to a seemingly impossible comeback.
Martin Erat got the Predators on the score board at 7:57 in the period, picking up a loose puck and backhanding it past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to bring the score to 3-1.
Five-and-a-half minutes later, Erat was involved in Nashville's second goal, feeding the puck to teammate David Legwand on a two-on-one shorthanded breakaway, bringing the score to 3-2.
Jerred Smithson capped off the period with a wrister to tie the score at 3-3 headed into the third. Picking up a pass from Joel Ward, Smithson appeared to be tripped from behind, but he kept control of the puck long enough to flip it up and over the outstretched glove of Feury for the score.
It was more of the same for Nashville in the third period. Taking advantage of a Rob Scuderi interference penalty, Ryan Suter zipped a slapshot past Fluery to put Nashville up 4-3.
Left alone at the blue line, Suter had a clear lane to the net and took full advantage of the pass from Eric Godard to break the tie.
Greg Zanon finished things off with a slap shot from the center line on an empty net, and just like that, Taco Bell was out over 14,000 free tacos.
Fortunately for them Nashville hasn't made a habit out of scoring five goals at home this year—the last time Nashville lit the lights five times in a game was Nov. 23 against Carolina, and that was an away game. In fact, Nashville has only cracked five twice before at home, a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets on October 18th, and one week later against the Kings in a 5-4 squeaker.
Not counting the abysmal first period, this is the kind of effort the Predators need if they are to stand a chance of seeing postseason play. Nashville has made the playoffs each of the last four seasons they have played, with the obvious exception being the lockout season of 2004-2005.
They currently sit 13th in the Western conference with 39 points, trailing the Minnesota Wild by four total points and giving up 27 more goals.
Ellis needs to fix the hole in his glove, Rinne needs to straighten up and get back to form, and the offense needs to start generating goals if they intend to make a run for the Stanley Cup.
Maybe Taco Bell should offer the players free burritos.