Buffalo, NY — The Nashville Predators move back atop the central division with a win tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2.
Ryan Johansen scored the game winner and the Predators now sit atop the division, tied with the Winnipeg Jets in what looks to be a real dogfight to the finish, with two games remaining on the schedule.
At presstime, the Jets were trailing the Minnesota Wild, 4-1. The Nashville win puts them two points up on the St. Louis Blues who have been breathing down Nashville’s back for the last week.
Nashville got on the board first, at 8:49 of the first period, deflecting a P.K Subban shot in front of the net to beat Buffalo goalie, Carter Hutton. Preds take an early 1-0 lead.
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) looks to make a save during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
Then at 16:04 of the opening frame, Kyle Okposo and tapped in a loose puck in front of the Nashville net to beat Pekka Rinne and the game was tied, 1-1.
The teams went to the first intermission locked in a 1-1 tie, but it wouldn’t take long for Nashville to assert itself in the second frame. Just 44 seconds into the period, P.K Subban stepped into the circle and fired a bullet past Hutton in goal and the Predators regained the lead, 2-1.
Buffalo was persistent though, and at 19:55 of the second period, Jeff Skinner buried a deflection off of a shot from Brandon Montour into an empty Predator net, and the teams were tied again, 2-2.
Both teams had their chances in this game and the third period was no different. Rinne kept his Predators in this one, and at 6:32 of the final frame, Ryan Johansen found a carom off the end board from Viktor Arvidsson and slipped a back hand on the high side of Hutton for the game winner, 3-2.
Nashville fired 35 shots on goal, to Buffalo’s 28 on the night. The Sabres have been eliminated from Stanley Cup contention after a season that started strong with a 10 game win streak that had everyone believing they were serious players this season.
Nashville has been fairly inconsistent since the trade deadline, but still find themselves in contention for the division lead. The Predators are hopeful of a division title and home ice throughout the playoffs.
The quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins April 10th.
The Predators return home to the Bridgestone Arena for their final two games of the season, hosting Vancouver on Thursday night, then the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Puck drops at 7pm
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