The Nashville Predators overcame a first half full of whistles, Filip Forsberg’s point streak coming to an end and a disallowed goal to prevail on Saturday night.
In front of 17,112 on Hockey Fights Cancer night at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds beat the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, on the strength of goals by James Neal and Craig Smith as well as 21 saves by Pekka Rinne.
With the win, Rinne improved to 11-3-1 on the year.
“There were not a lot of attempts at either net,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was no room through the neutral zone either way. We knew it was the type of hockey they were playing based on their record and having played them recently. It was hard to get to the neutral zone and the front of the net and I think that went both ways.”
After a first period that featured a ton of stoppages, things finally picked up in the second. It was Winnipeg who struck first, however. After an ill-advised turnover in the neutral zone by Matt Cullen, Blake Wheeler carried into the Predators’ zone and wristed a laser past Rinne shorthanded to open the scoring.
“You want to be scoring goals on the power play so it’s not great when they go down and get one [of their own],” Colin Wilson said. “Something like that can deflate you but as long as you respond well [you can overcome it].”
More than 10 minutes would roll off the clock in the middle frame and Nashville just couldn’t seem to get anything going.
“When it’s that tight, you wonder if a game will end 1-0,” Laviolette said. “There’s just not a lot of room, not a lot of odd-man rushes out there that can happen.”
But then something finally did. At least they thought so.
In the final minutes of the period, Mike Ribeiro slammed home a rebound that tied the game but the officials conferred and ruled that, just seconds before that, the puck was tipped on net by a high stick. The goal was disallowed amidst a flurry of boo’s and confusion inside Bridgestone Arena and the scoreboard returned to its previous “1-0, Winnipeg” state.
“When it appears that you tie it up but it gets taken down, that can sometimes deflate a team or deflate a building,” Laviolette said.
But, on the very next shift, Neal fired a shot that beat Ondrej Pavalec and tied the game anyway.
“It’s even better than if they allowed the first goal,” Wilson said about the morale on the bench. “It was pretty neat. What a great job by those guys. That’s very cool the way they attacked so quickly and got a goal.”
In the third period, Nashville not only took the lead but kept their Central Division rival from getting any points in the standings. Craig Smith potted his sixth of the year when he corralled a Calle Jarnkrok rebound and scored to make it 2-1.
Saturday marked the seventh time this season that the Predators have allowed the first goal but still managed to win.
“When you win in different ways, that’s how you get confident in winning,” Wilson said. “It’s not just the blow out games, it’s the close games and coming from behind so, yeah, we’ve got a little more confidence.”
The Predators will now go back on the road, heading to Toronto and Ottawa. First up, the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Nashville is 8-6-1 all-time against the Leafs and 5-4-1 all-time in Toronto.
Puck drops at 6:30pm Central with the pre-game show (hosted by Darren McFarland and yours truly) starting at 6:00pm on 102.5 The Game.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:30 remaining in regulation):
1. James Neal (NSH)
2. Mike Ribeiro (NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Craig Smith (NSH)
2. James Neal (NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Your November 15, 2014 installment of Five Minute Overtime:
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com