The Nashville Predators won their second game in a row on Tuesday night, knocking off the Florida Panthers 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena.
Three Predators players – Mike Fisher, Shea Weber and Craig Smith – had two-point nights with one goal and one assist.
Smith, a player who admittedly struggled last season, potted the Predators third goal of the night, giving Nashville a 3-2 lead.
“I just crashed the net,” Smith said. “We’ve been harping all camp and the beginning of the season going to the net hard. I did that and I was rewarded.”
Smith also had the first assist on Fisher’s goal, Nashville’s second goal of the night.
“I was just trying to find somebody open,” Smith said. “Fisher came off the bench and he was moving pretty good on the far side and I cut to the middle. I saw a lane and I threw it over.”
Smith managed just 12 points in 44 games last season and found himself a healthy scratch on multiple occasions. So far this season, in just 6 games, Smith has a third of his 2012-13 output with 4 points. In addition, he has 57 shot attempts and has 18 shots on goal.
“I just want to shoot the puck and then things happen,” Smith said. “I didn’t shoot the puck well last year and I made sure I wanted to come in and shoot it as much as possible.”
“I thought he was really good tonight,” Barry Trotz said. “He was playing and working really hard and getting some chances. He was maybe a little snake bit, but he got the rebound goal today and I think that’s probably the first rebound goal we’ve had all year. I thought he was really strong tonight. He was probably our strongest right wing by far.”
“He has been playing really well, skating well and competing,” Fisher said. “He’s hard on pucks and he had a good training camp. I think he’s just feeling confident about his game. Even when he hasn’t been putting up points, he’s been working really hard and getting and creating shots.”
While Smith’s effort this season had yet to show in the goal column prior to Tuesday, his game has noticeably improved. His positioning has been better and he has been charging the net consistently.
“I think maturity (is the difference),” Trotz said. “I think there were expectations for himself after the first year and they didn’t really happen for him, so I think starting again and trying to keep a really consistent game (is what has changed). He’s been solid.”
For Nashville, it was their second win in a row. After finishing last in the NHL in scoring last season ,the Predators are averaging just 2.17 goals per game through 6 games, but that number is largely skewed by a shutout against the Maple Leafs. The Predators also finished at the bottom of the league in shots on goal last season, but are currently ranked 19th in the league with 29.8 shots per game.
On Tuesday, Nashville kept pace with their average, putting 30 shots on net. However, the Predators scored 4 goals for the first time since their home finale last season.
“We were making a lot of things happen and we were rewarded for it today,” Smith said. “We’ll continue to work hard and put a lot of pucks on net. We feed off of each other and have good chemistry.”
“It’s a long season and one of the keys is to stay consistent.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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