David Legwand celebrated his milestone night in fashion. On the night he took over the Predators franchise record for games played, Legwand scored the game-winning goal to lift Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday at Sommet Center.
Legwand, the franchise's first ever NHL Entry Draft selection, when he was picked with the second overall selection in the 1998 Draft, has played in 574 career NHL games, all with the Predators, eclipsing the old mark of 573 games played for the Predators, previously held by Kimmo Timonen.
Legwand beat Peter Budaj to the short side with 0.3 seconds left in the first period to give the Predators their third one-goal lead of the night, a 3-2 advantage heading into the first intermission. The goal capped off a wild flurry of pressure in the period’s waning seconds. Dan Hamhuis made a tremendous play to set up the score, taking a rebound off the side boards and whipping around for a no-look tape-to-tape pass cross ice. Legwand took the pass on his forehand and snapped a shot from a tight angle between Budaj’s right pad and the near post for his fifth goal of the season, just beating the clock before the end of the period.
The Predators had a pair of one-goal leads earlier in the period, only to see the Avalanche counter with a special teams goal to knot the score.
Vernon Fiddler opened the scoring 5:15 into the game, his third goal of the season. Recently acquired tough-guy Wade Belak showed off his touch with a creative lob pass over the defense to Fiddler streaking down the left wing. Fiddler put the puck on his backhand and started to cut across the top of the crease and shoveled a shot inside the far post over Budaj’s glove hand.
The Avalanche tied the score at the 9:03 mark of the period, just 19 seconds into a five-on-three power-play. Ryan Smyth redirected Ruslan Salei’s shot from the point for his eighth goal of the season.
Nashville regained the lead 3:33 later on the front end of a double-minor power-play drawn by Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo was knocked down in front of the Avalanche net as Colorado was clearing the puck out of the zone and then Ian Laperriere tried to goad Tootoo into a fight to even the penalties up, but Tootoo didn’t take the bait and Laperriere was called for a pair of minor penalties.
The Predators wasted little time converting the power-play, creating two chances in the opening seconds of the man-advantage. Off the rebound from the second chance, Nashville quickly worked the puck around the horn with J.P. Dumont snapping a pass from the right wing to Ryan Suter at the center point. Suter relayed the puck to Shea Weber for a blast from just above the left face-off circle that beat Budaj clean high to the glove side, Weber’s 11th goal of the season.
The Preds were poised to extend their lead when Tootoo drew another power-play opportunity on his next shift, but the Avalanche created a turnover deep in the Predators offensive zone and Wojtek Wolski roofed a partial breakaway for a shorthanded goal to even the score, 2-2.
Pekka Rinne shut things down from there, holding the Avalanche off the board for the final 43:38, including an athletic stop on Milan Hejduk 2:14 into the third period and strong pad save on Paul Stastny with under a minute to play from in tight with traffic around the net. Rinne finished the game with 19 saves to improve to 5-0-0 on the season.
The Predators improved to a season-best three games over .500 (13-10-2) ... The Preds 3-goal first period marked Nashville's 17th multi-goal period this season and the second in as many games ... Antti Pihlstrom picked up his first career NHL point with an assist on the game-winning goal. Pihlstrom is the fourth Preds player to pick up his first career point this season, joining forwards Patric Hornqvist & Ryan Jones and goaltender Pekka Rinne ... With Wade Belak and Pihlstrom each picking up his first point of the season, 24 different Predators players have recorded a point this season.
Post-Game Quotes: Head Coach Barry Trotz On the teams playing equal after the first period…
“I think the first period had a real good pace. We got some good power play chances and from their side they got the 5-on-3 and the shorthanded goal. The 5-on-5 stayed pretty much the same. It was more of the chances and goals on the special teams that was the difference in the game. Legwand’s goal was really a huge for us. I thought the first period we were skating well and doing a lot of good things. The 5-on-3 hurt us and we turned it over on the power play, but the rest of the game we were real strong. I thought Legwand’s goal right at the end of the period gave us some momentum and I believe it took some away from them. I think both teams tightened up after the first period.”
On the game’s strong performers…
“I thought we had a few guys in the game that stuck out in my mind. Legwand was really skating strong. When he skates like that he is a very dangerous player. He backs people off and gets chances. I went head-to-head with their big line and I thought our guys did a great job. They really controlled a lot of the play. He was real strong for us this game. I also thought Vernon Fiddler and Jordin Tootoo were real strong. Tootoo drew three penalties for us tonight and he was physical. I thought those were a few things that were real strong for us tonight. I thought Pekka was good in net.”
On the Preds 7-0-0 record when leading after the first period…
“I think that’s a great stat and I hope we can keep it up all year long. I think it is a good omen for us. We have been behind in so many games and it’s hard to come back from that night in and night out. That can be very taxing on your team. I hope we can keep it up because it’s great to score first because it really gets the crowd into it and especially at home. It gets you a lot of good karma.”
On Pekka Rinne being 5-0-0…
“This stat is a bit misleading because he gave up three goals quickly in two games, but we scored three quickly so it kind of got him off the hook twice. Pekka has been really good. He shields the ice, he’s a big body and he has great instincts and reflexes. More than anything he has confidence. It’s important for a goaltender to feel good about himself and I think Pekka does.”
Defenseman Shea Weber On home-ice advantage after so many road games…
“It’s very important. We’ve got some home games finally so we have to play well at home like we have and make sure it’s a hard place to come in and play.”
On Colorado being right behind Nashville in the standings…
“I think from last place to eighth place is only four points before tonight so you can slide back and forth pretty quickly. We need to make sure we’re getting two points and moving ahead.”
On the improved power play performance…
“I think it was OK tonight. We had a tough time on some of them. But we have practice tomorrow so we can work on it and hopefully be better next time.”
On gaining continuity in the team’s performance…
“We’re trying to focus on staying the same in all of our games. We’ve either been really good at home or really good on the road. We had a good game at Buffalo and now we had a good game tonight so hopefully we can build and have a good game every night.”
Forward David Legwand On tonight’s win…
“Anytime you get a win at home against a conference rival is a good thing. Obviously we needed the two points and we’ve got a couple home games before Christmas so we’re just focusing on those and getting wins.”
On his good performance…
“We pressed early and put a lot of pucks at the net and that’s always a positive when you can do that and get three goals. Anytime we get three goals as a team we should win hockey games and that’s what we did tonight.”
Goaltender Pekka Rinne On the importance of the win against a conference rival…
“You only have to take a look at the standings to realize it’s so close and so tight. That’s a good confidence boost and a good energy boost.”
On Legwand’s goal helping his mindset…
“I just try to focus on my own things and obviously it’s a huge goal by Leggy – a game-winner – and it’s just a big goal.”
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