The Nashville Predators tied up their Qualifying Round series with the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, winning Game 2 by a score of 4-2.

While most of the credit for the win should go to the Preds’ defense and goaltending for stifling the Coyotes most of the game, it was a veteran skill move by Nick Bonino that sparked the whole thing.

With over seven minutes gone in the 1st period, Nick Bonino collected the puck on the right circle in the Coyotes zone. Surveying the offensive zone, he looked across ice with the puck on his forehand, as if to pass, but then ripped a wrist shot over Darcy Kuemper’s left shoulder.

It was an unexpected and highly skilled move by the veteran center, and it totally caught Kuemper off guard. It also seemed like no one on the ice besides Bonino himself expected a shot toward the net.

A veteran move. And by a veteran player with two Stanley Cup rings, no less.

Bonino’s creativity sparks Preds

The Preds have been a frustrating team to watch on offense all season. They’ve consistently generated a high volume of shots and shot attempts, but most of those have been low quality.

All season we’ve watched opponents block the Preds’ shots too easily and tip their cross ice passes way too often. Teams seem to know where the Preds are going with the puck before they even make a move, reading their attacks like an open book and easily denying them the high danger areas of the ice.

That’s what makes Bonino’s play so critical. To beat NHL quality goalies and to evade NHL quality defensemen, you need to find new, creative ways to score. Find different angles, shoot at different speeds, use different shot releases. Filip Forsberg is quite good at this, but he can’t do everything.

A no look shot on net from the circle isn’t going to work every time. But it certainly caught Kuemper by surprise and got him off his game a little bit. So much so that when Ryan Johansen’s relatively weak shot came in from down low later in the period, Kuemper, perhaps still reeling, was unable to hold on.

That gave the Preds a 2-0 lead and changed the game entirely. They soared from that moment on and, save the final two minutes of the game when the Coyotes scored nine seconds apart to make the game interesting again, held the lead quite comfortably.

This is the kind of veteran leadership a guy like Nick Bonino can bring and it’s what he’s brought the Nashville Predators all season. On Wednesday afternoon, we’ll see if that leadership will continue to rub off on the rest of the team as the Preds go for a series lead against the Coyotes.

— Featured image via Nashville Predators —
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