To make it out of the Central Division this season, it is going to take heart, determination and tenacity, and this is exactly what the Nashville Predators showed on Thursday night against Winnipeg.
After a slow start to the first period, Shea Weber’s power-play goal at 15:53 seemed to spark the Predators into action for the final four minutes of the period as they turned up the heat on Ondrej Pavelec. Weber’s power-play marker was the 51st of his career – a franchise best.
Nashville held the lead until the 13:49 mark of the second period, when Anthony Peluso grabbed a rebound, circled the net and tucked the puck under a diving Carter Hutton to tie the game.
Patric Hornqvist tallied his fourth goal of the season – tying his goals total from the 2012-13 campaign – just six minutes into the final frame. Nashville looked as if they were going to pull the win out, but Blake Wheeler walked in unnoticed and a fired a shot past Hutton to once again tie the game. The score held through regulation, as extra time was needed for the second consecutive game at Bridgestone Arena.
After a back-and-forth battle in overtime, David Legwand found Craig Smith open in the slot with 17 seconds remaining, as Smith fired a shot past Pavelec for the win. Smith’s goal was the second-latest overtime winner in franchise history.
Two Big Things and Notes:
Smith Finds His Groove: Smith’s overtime game winner is just the latest in an impressive offensive streak for the third-year forward. His game winner on Thursday was just the second of his career and the first to come in overtime. Smith is tied for the team lead in points (2g-5a), and has posted six points (2g-4a) in his last seven outings. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team with a +4 rating and ranks second with 34 shots on goal this season. Smith has been Nashville’s most dangerous offensive players through the past seven games – creating scoring chances, going to the hard areas and making the most of his chances. Smith battled through a lot of adversity on Thursday night, including two vicious hits from Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, to etch his name on the scoresheet once again. It seems as Smith goes, the Preds go, and if he continues to play the way he has, things look good along Broadway.
The Young and the Restless: On both of Nashville’s regulation goals tonight, veteran players and rookies teamed up to reach the scoresheet. On Shea Weber’s first-period power-play goal, Filip Forsberg dished the puck to David Legwand before ultimately ending up on Weber’s stick. Forsberg, who was a healthy scratch in Minnesota on Tuesday, continues to impress as he now ranks 12th among first-year players in scoring (1g-3a-4pts). All of Forsberg’s points this season have come on the man-advantage. Legwand, who also recorded his second multi-assist outing of the year with a helper on Smith’s overtime game winner, is tied with Smith for the team points lead (2g-5a-7pts). The Grosse Pointe, Mich., native has four points (4a) in his last four games.
On Hornqvist’s second-period goal, it was another rookie-veteran connection as Seth Jones and Mike Fisher combined to find Hornqvist. Fisher returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a lower-body injury, and recorded his sixth point of the season (2g-4a). Jones has shown time-and-time again this season why he was the top-rated player in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. His helper on Hornqvist’s goal was his fifth point (2g-3a), as he now ranks seventh among rookies in point production this season. The Predators have won every game this season in which Jones has recorded a point.
Nashville played its second beyond 60 minute game of the season, and now stands at 1-1 in OT/SO. The Predators last won an overtime game on home ice on February 25, 2013 (vs. Dallas).
The Predators penalty kill has been incredibly effective as of late, killing off 22 straight penalties (seven games). The last power-play goal scored against the Preds came on Oct. 10 vs. Toronto.
For the seventh time in 11 games, Nashville put up 30 or more shots.
For the sixth time, Nashville scored first (5-0-1 record).
The Predators are undefeated when scoring a power-play goal (5 wins).
Goaltender Carter Hutton picked up his second career win. He has now stopped 93 of the 97 shots he has faced this season, good for a .959 save percentage and 1.37 goals-against average.
Patric Hornqvist tied for the lead among skaters with six shots, netting his team-high fourth goal of the season.
Captain Shea Weber’s first-period goal moved him atop the goal-scoring leaderboard among NHL defensemen (3g). Weber added six blocked shots, a season high – he now has four games in 2013-14 with at least four blocks.
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