TAMPA, Fla. — Filip Forsberg came up big for the Nashville Predators in his return after sitting out a game.
Forsberg had two goals and an assist to lead the Predators to a 4-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night. He was held out of the previous night’s lopsided loss to Buffalo for maintenance purposes.
“It’s a big win and a good test for us going up against one of the best teams in the league,” Forsberg said. “This is the way it’s going to be in the playoffs, especially on the road, so it was good.”
Craig Smith and Ryan Johansen also scored to help Nashville move closer to securing the first division title in franchise history, with the Predators’ magic number to clinch the Central at two points.
“I think the guys played smart and that’s all on them,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They had a meeting. They weren’t happy with (Saturday’s loss) and they straightened it out. They played a smart, hard game, especially with the turnaround.”
Tampa Bay, which went 0 for 5 on the power play, played the final two periods without captain Steven Stamkos, who left the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on Stamkos after the game.
Ondrej Palat scored while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for the Lightning, who have lost four of five to fall two points behind the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
“We don’t like to lose games, that’s bottom line,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We want to win every game. But we are looking at the big picture and hopefully there is two or three months left in the season, we want to play the right way.”
Nashville opened up the scoring as Johansen led a 2-on-1 rush and pulled the puck back before beating Vasilevskiy with a wrist shot 7:50 into the game.
The Predators doubled their lead early in the second with one second remaining on a power paly as Forsberg’s shot deflected off the stick of Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman and trickled through Vasilevskiy’s pads at 2:46.
Palat pulled the Lightning within a goal at 7:32 as he was open in the slot to take a pass from Stralman and fired a shot from between the circles for his 10th.
Forsberg scored his second of the night, skating around Dan Girardi to get to the top of the crease and sip the puck under Vasilevskiy at 6:24 to make it 3-1.
Smith put the game away, taking a long pass from Mattias Ekholm and skating in alone to put a shot off the inside of the far post at 9:29.
“We just give up too many easy ones, they are too easy,” Cooper said. “It’s not like they are spending an ounce of time in our zone, they just go down and find open space.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay RW Ryan Callahan returned to the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury. … Nashville leading goal-scorer LW Viktor Arvidsson missed the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. … The Lightning have allowed the opening goal in five consecutive games. … Forsberg is the second player in franchise history to reach 60 points three different times, joining J.P. Dumont. … Saros improved to 8-0-2 this season when starting on the second night of a back-to-back games for the Predators
Lightning: Host Boston on Tuesday night.
Predators: At Florida on Tuesday night.