The Predators are now 1-1 in those beautiful Winter Classic jerseys, thanks to tonight's scrappy 2-1 win over the Sabres at home.
The Preds really have both Zach Bogosian and Linus Ullmark to thank for their two goals tonight; had they not aligned themselves in a position to have a puck perfectly bounced off them, Buffalo may have walked away with a shutout.
The Preds did not slouch on offensive pressure, however. They finished the game with 37 shots on goal, and Ullmark made some truly pivotal saves to keep his team in the game. Matt Duchene and Dante Fabbro both had five shots on goal, and Roman Josi had four. Every single Predator recorded at least one shot tonight, with the exception of Dan Hamhuis and Nick Bonino. That kind of widely dispersed offensive weight is something this Preds team has been sorely lacking this season.
For the first 12 minutes of the game, the Preds did not allow the Sabres to squeak a single shot past their defense. It would have been really impressive had the Preds, a) scored on the eight shots they took in the interim, and b) not allowed Sam Reinhart to score after just five Sabres shots.
Pekka Rinne had a hell of a game. He stopped 30 of the Sabres' 31 shots- including all six of their power play shots- to finish the night with a .968 save percentage. Rinne's save percentage is still bumbling sub-.900, but a handful of starts that replicate tonight's performance would go a long way- not only statistically, but also with his confidence.
Can you believe the Preds scored a power play goal? Six seconds into the PP? To win the game? At home? On a Saturday night? We genuinely may have all slipped into an alternate dimension when Craig Smith netted the game winner on a tripping call against Jack Eichel. The Preds converted one of their three PP opportunities tonight, while killing all three of Buffalo's opportunities. Tonight's game was one of the best collective special teams efforts the Preds have put forth all season, but it's really not saying much.
It might be jumping the gun, but Josi seems poised to put together another multi-game point streak after losing his 12-gamer against Winnipeg on Sunday. He unleashed a lovely dangle on Buffalo's Conor Sheary and though his shot missed the net, Ryan Johansen was able to put it home.
No amount of alcohol is going to drink away that Anaheim loss on Thursday, let's just be honest. Losing (soundly, I might add) to the second-worst team in the league is a cross the Preds will have to bear for the rest of the season. However, they must brush themselves off and keep looking forward- especially given the fact that they now have to catch Winnipeg and Chicago in the standings. Conveniently, those two teams play each other tomorrow evening.
The Preds, who have a few games in hand against their division rivals, will not play again until after the All-Star break. On Monday, Jan. 27, they will take on the Maple Leafs in Bridgestone Arena.