The Nashville Predators only had one goal from their top six forwards on Saturday night, which would normally be a recipe for disaster for such a top heavy team. But thanks to some key contributions from role players, the Preds were able to hold off the New Jersey Devils in a back and forth affair at Bridgestone Arena.

This time it wasn’t guys like Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Roman Josi, and Kyle Turris lighting the lamp, though Filip Forsberg did tally his 11th goal of the season in the 2nd period.

Instead guys like Dante Fabbro, Daniel Carr, Nick Bonino, Yakov Trenin, and Rocco Grimaldi were putting the puck in the net. Trenin’s goal was his first in the NHL after being called up on Friday to replace the injured Mikael Granlund.

Nick Bonino’s line with Rocco Grimaldi and Craig Smith was especially dangerous, as they have been all season.

“We’ve tried to keep some glue on that line because they’ve been a productive line,” Peter Laviolette said of the Bonino line after the game. “Not only from a standpoint of offense and creating goals and scoring goals and making plays, but they get the pucks out
of the defensive zone. They get them through the neutral zone, they stay in the offensive zone, they generate good numbers.”

Not only did they account for two of the Preds’ six goals, both goals were at crucial moments of the game. Both Bonino’s goal and Grimaldi’s goal gave the Preds a two goal advantage at a moment when the Devils were pressing to tie the game up.

“They get [pucks] through the neutral zone, they stay in the offensive zone, they generate good numbers,” Laviolette added. “They’ve been a real solid line offensively.”

For a team that was so desperate to break their losing streak at home on Saturday (they were 0-3-1 on the season), the Preds needed a good effort against a weak Devils team.

Preds score early, Devils answer

This one got off to a wild start.

Shortly after Bridgestone Arena welcomed P.K. Subban back into the building, the Preds took a 1-0 lead on a tipped goal by Daniel Carr. Not two minutes later, a one timer goal from Dante Fabbro made it 2-0.

But then the Devils came right back to tie it up, with goals by Jesper Bratt and Travis Zajac. While the Bratt goal was a nice play by the Devils to get into a dangerous area, the Zajac goal was an inexplicable goal to give up by Rinne. The puck slid along the ice and Rinne stumbled over it as he went to make the save. Not his finest moment.

So after just four minutes, the game already had four goals.

Then in the 2nd period, the Preds started to assert their dominance. First, Yakov Trenin scored his first NHL goal after Louis Domingue lost the puck in the blue ice behind him. It was a great moment for Trenin, but to be honest, most NHL goalies would have made the save.

Filip Forsberg scored to make it 4-2 with 12:36 remaining in the period and it looked like the Preds would start the pull away. However, the Devils scored a power play goal a few minutes later to make it 4-3. The Preds would enter the 3rd period holding onto a one goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored to give the Preds a two goal lead early in the 3rd period, sending a wrist shot high on the near side by Louis Domingue. That gave Bonino his 11th goal of the year, tying him with Filip Forsberg.

Though Taylor Hall got the Devils back within one briefly, Rocco Grimaldi made it 6-4 with a beautiful breakaway goal late in the 3rd. And of course, Grimaldi started the rush by poking the puck by former Preds’ defenseman P.K. Subban at the opposite blueline.

That clinched the game for the Preds, giving them a crucial two points and getting them out of the Central Division cellar for the time being.

Balance to the Preds’ offense?

Normally when you only get one goal from your top six forwards and when your power play goes 0-for-4, you don’t stand much of a chance of winning the hockey game.

So the Preds defied the odds tonight.

Is this a recipe for success moving forward? Probably not. But it is good to see that the Preds can still play a complete game with their role players doing all the heavy lifting.

And Laviolette knows there’s work to be done, even with a good result.

“The offense was good. I didn’t like the way the game unfolded a little bit. There were a couple of slip ups early,” he said after the game.

“You get a 2-0 lead and you come out in your building, you don’t want to kick it up that soon and that quick and that easy and make it 2-2. I do like the fact that as they pushed back, because they do have a lot of skill in their lineup, as they pushed back there was always a response and we were able to grow the lead.”

After the way November unfolded for the Nashville Predators, with only four wins in 13 games, Peter Laviolette will take the two points any way he can get them.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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