Tonight's 3-1 win over San Jose was still one of the most peerless games, in terms of collective offensive and defensive effort, the Predators have played in a while.
Coming into the third period, the Preds were getting outshot 16-13 and had previously only recorded two shots in the entirety of the second period. Knowing this team, it didn't seem like they were going to pull out of the offensive slump. The type of gritty, no-quit, aggressive offensive zone time we saw in the final period tonight is not a commonplace occurrence for these Preds. Rebounds were scrapped for, passing was exceptionally accurate, and holes were punched in a strong Sharks defense.
Juuse Saros' masterful goaltending gave the entire team an opportunity to put together a win in the final period. Were it not for a mad Sharks scramble in front of the net late in the third frame, Saros would have stepped off the ice tonight with a 25-save shutout. He stoned several sure-goals by the Sharks, including Barclay Goodrow's penalty shot, Brent Burns' shorthanded opportunity, and Timo Meier's backhand try.
When the tension of a 0-0 tie in the second period erupted, scraps ensued, and thus penalties rained down on both teams. Altogether, San Jose recorded 39 and the Preds recorded 33 total penalty minutes served. Evander Kane accounted for 19 of the Sharks' PIMs, and Austin Watson accounted for 15 of the Preds' PIMs. The Preds went 1 for 7 on the power play with Ryan Johansen tallying the goal; once again- good, but not great. Fortunately, the Preds killed all four of San Jose's power play chances.
Taking a look at Natural Stat Trick's shot heat map from tonight, the Preds maintained a noticeable difference in shot location. In all situations- even strength, power play, and penalty kill- the Preds spread their shots from nearly everywhere in the offensive zone. Their center-ice hesitancy was still somewhat present, but not nearly as noticeable- or game-altering- as it has been in previous games.
The Preds will be in Buffalo on Thursday to take on the Sabres. Jack Eichel is currently on a 14-game point streak, and the Sabres beat the Central Division-leading Blues 5-2 tonight.