Among the words Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz used after his team's 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames yesterday afternoon was resiliency.
Trotz was talking about his team's ability to regroup after seeing a two-goal lead become a 3-2 deficit and then the way the Predators staved off the Flames' third-period push for the equalizer.
Should anyone following the Preds be surprised by their ability to persevere? It's a trait you've seen constantly from the small-market organization which continues to threaten despite losing so many big-money players over the years.
Three weeks ago, the Predators were among the clubs sitting on the playoff bubble. They'd gone on a great run to erase a horrible start, but were in that position of tipping on either side.
Then came the 5-0 spanking handed to them by the Flames Nov. 30 in Nashville.
Instead of falling back down, the Preds have gone on a roll since that humbling. They've posted a 7-1-2 mark since to move into a tie with the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Central Division.
"Any time you get beat at home -- especially the way we got beat -- it sorta brings clarity to what you don't want to do, and we got our game back in order," Trotz said. "Sometimes you lose a game 2-1 or 1-0, a close game, and you blow it off and say, 'We weren't quite on.' We weren't on at all, and it brought clarity to where we want to go and brought it in order."
The Hawks maintain top spot in the Central -- and the Western Conference -- by holding games in hand, but it's a tribute to the Predators for climbing to such a perch after winning only two of their first eight games.
"I think we saw what can happen when we don't support each other well," Marcel Goc said of the Preds reaction to losing 5-0 to the Flames last month. "Calgary's strong on the forecheck, and we didn't go back quick enough for pucks and turned pucks over. They took advantage."
Now, it's the Predators taking advantage of the opposition. Yesterday's win marked the fourth-straight game in which the Preds scored at least five goals. They've piled up 23 in that stretch.
Early in the season, they were among the least prolific clubs. Now, they're scoring goals by the bucketload.
"Well, I don't know if it's by the bucketload," Trotz said.
"Earlier in the year, we tried to play way too much on the perimeter and way too cute. We got to basic hockey of throwing pucks on net and going to the hard areas, and have been rewarded.
"That's what most teams do in the league, now."
Then, like resilient teams do, the Preds hung on while the Flames pushed for their equalizer.
"We were a little bit on our heels," Trotz admitted. "But that's what we do, play a little bit of rope-a-dope."