Legwand, the No. 2 choice in the 1998 draft, has shed the pressure that comes with such status and is putting together his best year yet.
The 26-year-old center scored a goal and assisted on two others as Nashville beat the Calgary Flames 5-3 Monday night. He has 14 goals and 22 assists this season, including 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his last 13 games.
“He is dependable when he uses his speed and when he is competing hard,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “He is a solid player in this league. He has been consistent. He has scored some big goals. I have a lot of trust in him.”
And Legwand is making the most of his talented linemates.
Calgary is playing in the highly competitive Northwest Division, and the Predators are trying to catch Anaheim for the top record in the Western Conference. So, the postseason feel surrounding this matchup was hardly surprising.
“You always expect playoff-type hockey from the Flames,” Trotz said. “We wanted to test ourselves a bit. We talked about that before the game. We wanted to test ourselves against a team that plays rugged and checks very well. They had not given up a 5-on-5 goal in 4 1/2 games. They are averaging giving up about one even-strength goal a game.”
Erat opened the scoring when he skated through the slot and fired a high shot that beat Miikka Kiprusoff at 14:41 of the first period.
“It’s home ice and we have to come out strong,” Erat said. “We came out strong, finished well and got two points.”
Calgary tied it at 17:23 when Langkow skated from the right circle across the front of the net and shot from close range into the left side of the net as Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun made a wrong move to the right.
With 22 seconds left in the first period, Huselius’ close-in shot from the left side of the net slipped between the gap between Vokoun’s pads.
“I thought we played well enough in the first period to win that one,” Calgary’s Rhett Warrener said. “But after that period, Nashville kept its work boots on and we took ours off. That was the difference in the game.”
During a second-period power play, Nashville’s Jean-Pierre Dumont passed the puck from the right side of the net to the left. From there, Arnott poked the puck over Kiprusoff’s outstretched leg as he was down on the ice at 15:59 to tie it 2-2.
Nashville scored two goals in an 80-second span to take a 4-2 lead.
Suter scored on a one-timer from above the right circle that beat Kiprusoff to his glove side at 2:28. Legwand doubled the Predators’ advantage at 3:48 when he fired a shot high from the right side that got by Kiprusoff on the stick side.
Huselius scored his second goal of the game at 17:06 when he found the opening between Vokoun’s pads with a wrist shot from the left circle.
“I don’t think we played them well as a team,” Kiprusoff said. “It’s tough to take. They are a fast team and they used their chances well.”
Hartnell added an empty-net goal, with an assist from Legwand, with 20 seconds left.
Nashville leads the NHL with 32 wins. … The Predators are unbeaten against Calgary in eight games. Huselius is on a four-game point streak, tallying four goals and three assists. Arnott has six goals in seven games. Nashville’s Paul Kariya had an assist to give him 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in eight games. Dumont was credited with an assist, extending his point streak to seven games (one goal, eight assists). … Hartnell registered his 200th NHL point.