Contests between the Kings and Predators the last few years have been some pretty intense affairs. With both teams fighting to establish playoff positioning, this game promised to be more of the same.
Don't let the final score fool you. Nashville put up a fight, handily controlling the shot battle in the first period despite trailing early on. With Tyler Toffoli out with a lower body injury (day-to-day), the Kings were going to have to find some depth scoring and they did, courtesy of the fourth line.
Jordan Nolan does not initially get credit for an assist, despite the beautiful feed under the stick of Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro gets double-punked as his attempt to block the shot with his stick instead deflects the puck past Rinne. It was Shore's second goal of the season, so he'll take them any way he can get them.
The Kings closed the shot gap in the second period, with both teams trading quality scoring chances. Budaj certainly did his part, finding the puck and maintaining position for some quality saves. Roman Josi was called for holding Anze Kopitar's stick midway through the period and while the Kings did not score on the man-advantage, they moved the puck well and had several quality chances, tilting momentum in their favor for the first time in the game.
That momentum seemed to carry over into the third, where Alabama-born Nic Dowd gave his cheering section in attendance something to jump up and down for:
Dowd sneaks one past Rinne to make it 2-0. pic.twitter.com/SRT7w9X0mC— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 23, 2016
A soft goal allowed by Rinne, but that's why you throw it at the net. The last time the Kings had a 2-0 on this trip was in Buffalo, so we knew the next goal of the game would be a pivotal one. Luckily, Jeff Cater did not leave us hanging in suspense for long:
"Jeff Carter is on his horse" -@JimFox19 pic.twitter.com/4MQlDanUzL— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 23, 2016
A beautiful goal by a beautiful man. Following the goal by Dowd, Carter wins the faceoff back to Martinez, who threw the puck up the boards into the Nashville zone. Carter slowed up just enough to stay on sides and snaps his signature wrist shot far side on Rinne, ringing it off the post and in. Carter's 17th goal on the season was his 16th in 24 games against Nashville. He has five goals in this road trip's first six games, as he continues to carry the load offensively for the Kings.
With the game all but put away, Brown and Kopitar go to work to put the icing on this cake, with Devin Setoguchi swiping in to stick his finger in the frosting:
Watching Anze Kopitar that shift— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 23, 2016
Oh and that assist on Setoguchi's goal gives him 700 career points #WOW pic.twitter.com/BoHNArb7iC
As @LAKings points out, that gorgeous assist would be Kopitar's 700th career point, as he continues to climb his way up the team's scoring records. The captain has been in a bit of a scoring slump, so it was nice to see him get his name on the score sheet. Even without the point, this was still a dominating performance from Kopitar and his line mates:
The Kopitar line tonight: pic.twitter.com/GTBWHvTqan— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 23, 2016
The Kings win a crucial first game of a tough back-to-back in the south. Budaj and Carter continue to carry the load, though in this game they had plenty of help from the rest of the squad. Next up is another tough match-up in Dallas, then they get to enjoy their four day Christmas break before traveling back to western Canada.