Preds overcome “sloppy” start, beat Coyotes

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
Preds overcome "sloppy" start, beat Coyotes

When the Nashville Predators were somehow able to unload the four-year, $7.4 million contract of 32-year old fourth liner Matt Hendricks last season, they sent him to the Edmonton Oilers. In exchange, they received goaltender Devan Dubnyk, a player they hoped would help them between the pipes. Dubnyk ended up playing in just two games for the Predators, allowing nine goals on 60 shots.

On Tuesday night, the Predators faced their old goaltender and beat the Arizona Coyotes in the shootout in front of 15,694 at Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne amassed 33 saves and Nashville got a shootout winner from the man of the night, Ryan Ellis.

“We were a little sloppy and didn’t come out with the jump we wanted,” James Neal said. “It was one of those nights but we stuck with it. We stuck it out and got a big shootout win.”

The victory gave Nashville 10 points in the first six games of the season.

“The guys have played hard and they’ve fought well,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “When things have gone well, they’ve continued to push. When things haven’t gone well, they’ve done their best to get things going in the right direction. That game tonight had peaks and valleys in it for us but yet they continued to push.”

Nashville managed just 26 shots on Dubnyk, a low amount considering this was just his second start of the season, had a shaky last season and is wearing his fourth NHL sweater in the past 10 months.

“There were some opportunities where we could have put pucks at the net,” Laviolette said. “It doesn’t have to be a point-blank, grade-A chance. Sometimes you just put pucks at the net. You don’t know what it’s going to hit. I thought we could have done a better job of really just trying to put that puck toward the net as opposed to passing through their box.”

For the fourth time this season, the Preds allowed their opponents to score first. Rob Klinkhammer converted the Arizona odd man rush to open the scoring early in the first.

Nashville would counter before the end of the frame when the Preds broke into the Coyotes zone 4-on-1. Using Forsberg and Neal as decoys, Ribeiro and Ellis played catch until Ribeiro slammed the puck under Dubnyk for the tying marker. The goal extended his four-game scoring streak, including three goals in those four games.

“I’m getting closer and closer to the net and getting those chances,” Ribeiro said. “I’m not the sniper but, if I can score here and there like I have been lately, I think it’s good for confidence and hopefully I can keep it up.”

In the second, Ryan Ellis snapped a shot from the high slot that appeared to be deflected in front by Colin Wilson. Either way, Nashville would take the 2-1 lead.

“He’s a talented kid,” Laviolette said about Ellis. “He makes a good first pass, he’s able to see holes in the ice then jump to the offense and that really helps when you’re trying to generate offense. We’ve got a few guys like that and he’s certainly one of them.”

The team formerly known as the Phoenix Coyotes would tie the game in what has to be one of the quickest goals after a face-off in NHL history. Calle Jarnkrok got whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct at 11:45 of the middle stanza and, right off the face-off, Keith Yandle bagged his first of the year three seconds later.

Former Predator Martin Erat would tally his second goal of the season on the power play in order to put the Coyotes back up by one but Nashville would respond once again, this time just seconds later. Ellis batted an Arizona pass out of mid-air right to Riberio. The former Coyote corralled the puck in the offensive zone, faked the shot, sent a behind-the-back pass to Neal who blasted it past Dubnyk to re-tie the game.

“The goal to get us back to 3-3 was a really important goal,” Laviolette said. “At that point, the steam could have left the building and left everybody but they continued to fight and stay in the moment.”

Despite a power play for the visitors, the overtime session would expire without a goal and the two clubs were headed to the shootout. Ellis, who had just collected his first three-point game at the NHL level, appeared to have the hot hand and he continued that in the skills competition, scoring the winner to propel Nashville to victory.

The Predators are now 4-0-2 and have collected at least one point in every game this season.

“We know we can get better in here,” Neal said. “We haven’t played our best hockey yet. We’ve seen glimpses of it and we’ve played great periods but we can still get better.”

Nashville now turns their attention to the Chicago Blackhawks who will be in town on Thursday night for an early Central Division showdown.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central and you can catch all the action on 102.5 The Game.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:54 remaining in regulation):
1. Ryan Ellis (NSH)
2. Mike Ribeiro (NSH)
3. Keith Yandle (ARZ)

1. Ryan Ellis (NSH)
2. Mike Ribeiro (NSH)
3. Keith Yandle (ARZ)

Your October 21, 2014 installment of Five Minute Overtime:

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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