Nashville Predators 6, Calgary Flames 5
Cullen's big night powers Predators past Flames
CALGARY -- It took six goals, five scorers and two goaltenders to keep the Stanley Cup Playoff hopes of the Nashville Predators alive.
Matt Cullen had four points and goaltender Carter Hutton stopped 10 shots in relief of starter Pekka Rinne to power the Predators to a 6-5 victory against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday.
"You probably wouldn't expect going into tonight there would be 11 goals scored," Cullen said. "Both teams played hard and both teams have a lot of pride. It was an entertaining game. It was up and down. It's probably not the way either team would've drawn it up or preferred it to go but it's nice to see us get a few pucks in the back of the net. It was good for us. We've struggled here a bit as of late."
The win, which saw Nashville surrender leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-3 before holding on to snap a three-game losing skid, keeps the Predators' faint playoff hopes alive, moving them within nine points of the idle Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
"I don't know what the numbers are or where it sits as far as what we need but you're never out of it until you're out of it," Cullen said. "We're going playing and keep trying to win games and we'll see what happens."
The game was tied 4-4 after a wild second period that featured five goals in nine minutes before Nashville captain Shea Weber put the Predators ahead to stay. With Curtis Glencross in the penalty box for hooking, Weber stepped into a one-timer after a pass from Matt Cullen and fired a shot along the ice that went under goalie Joey MacDonald to put Nashville up 5-4 with 5:32 remaining in regulation. It was his second goal of the night and 18th of the season.
Cullen added his fourth point of the night when he redirected Roman Josi's centering feed past MacDonald at 17:08. The goal proved important when Mike Cammalleri scored his second of the night, seventh in the past six games and team-leading 22nd of the season with 2:24 remaining in regulation. He beat Hutton from a sharp angle to cut the deficit to one goal.
"The fifth one wasn't the best goal I've ever given up but it squeaks in," Hutton said. "I'm always aggressive trying to play the puck and it happens. The crowd starts getting into it, but we've still got the one-goal lead. You've got to stay focused and my mindset doesn't change."
The Flames pulled MacDonald for an extra attacker with just under 1:30 remaining, but Calgary couldn't draw even thanks largely to Hutton, who denied Jiri Hudler's chip, Sean Monahan's wrister from 10 feet and Kris Russell's last-second blast from the point in the final minute of the game.
"Right to the end," Cammalleri said. "I thought we almost had one at the end there, too. It would have been nice. You can't expect to win games when you give up six, for sure. One thing we're proud of, especially in the last little while, is not giving up as many chances. Tonight, we would like to do a better job of that."
In a game that featured the NHL debuts of Calgary's Kenny Agostino and Nashville's Calle Jarnkrok, Predators' defenseman Victor Bartley made sure he'd get to celebrate a first of his own 5:10 into the game. After cruising into the Flames zone, Bartley stepped into a pass from Craig Smith for a one-timer that beat Flames' starter Joni Ortio for his first career NHL goal to put the Predators up 1-0 at 5:10.
"I don't even remember what happened, actually," Bartley said. "Me and [Smith] just had a good [celebration] after. [Smith] did a good job of pulling up and basically put it on a platter for me."
The goal came on Nashville's first shot. The Predators were equally successful on their second. Forty-nine seconds later, Weber took a return pass from Mike Fisher in the slot and shoveled a shot over Ortio's blocker to make it 2-0.
With Colin Wilson in the penalty box for holding the stick, Russell recorded his first goal since Dec. 6, a span of 29 games, skipping a shot off Weber's stick and past Rinne with 33.9 seconds remaining in the first period to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Though each started the second, neither Ortio nor Rinne could finish a wild period that saw a combined five goals on 19 shots.
After Patric Hornqvist restored Nashville's two-goal lead at 4:10 by batting a pass out of midair and behind Ortio, goals by Cammalleri and Hudler 51 seconds apart erased the Predators lead and squared the game at 3-3.
Hudler's goal featured Mark Giordano's 13th point in his past 11 games and prompted a timeout from Predators coach Barry Trotz. It worked; 52 seconds later, Viktor Stalberg snuck out from behind the net and tucked the puck behind Ortio, chasing the Flames goaltender in favor of MacDonald after he made nine saves on 13 shots. Jarnkrok's assist on the play was his first NHL point.
"[Ortio] did a great job," Hartley said. "Maybe it was not an easy night for him but the way we executed in the first period. Us, as a team, put our goalie in that situation. I don't think we can blame Joni Ortio by any means for this loss. That was a team loss and we're much better than what we showed tonight. It's just a sign that there's lots of work ahead of us."
Ortio, who was called up on an emergency basis due to injuries, was returned to Abbotsford of the AHL after the game. Karri Ramo will return for the Flames' road game Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Rinne lasted another five minutes, but gave way to Hutton after coughing up a dump-in to Lance Bouma, who promptly found Mikael Backlund alone in the slot for a tap-in into the vacated net at 13:31.
"Sometimes you do that to get their attention," Trotz said. "On the goals, I didn't think Pekka had much chance on the three. In the back of my head I have four as the number and I thought maybe I'd catch the attention of our team because we were loose defensively there."
The new goaltenders calmed the scoring with MacDonald turning away two shots in 11:54 of action and Hutton stopping the only shot he faced in the final 6:29 of the period.