They’re never out if it. They proved that yet again on Thursday.
In front of the 35th sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena this season, the Nashville Predators beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2, in overtime. The Coyotes found themselves with a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes but the Preds were able to mount a comeback in the final frame en route to their second win in a row.
“I thought we played well through the first 40 minutes,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “The fact that the guys kept with it and didn’t get frustrated and continued to push in the third period when we were able to get one, get one late and then the overtime goal. It was a really good comeback and I thought it was a strong 60 minutes.”
Pekka Rinne was at his best when he needed to be, turning aside 16 of 18 shots on the night but he shut the door on all seven he faced in the third en route to his 34th win of the campaign.
In the opening period, a Zbynek Michalek shot from the point hit Antoine Vermette’s skate in front of Rinne for the game’s opening goal. Then, midway through the second, Craig Smith failed to clear the puck off the boards and, on the ensuing sequence, Shane Doan one-timed a cross-ice Brad Richardson pass past Rinne to make it 2-0.
It wasn’t like the Predators hadn’t gotten chances themselves. Much like he did in the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals, Arizona goalie Mike Smith played out of his mind. In the second period alone, James Neal got around a defender for a partial breakaway but was stopped, Filip Forsberg was sprung out of the penalty box by a home run pass that gave him a breakaway but Smith stuffed him and, a little later, Roman Josi tore down the wing and snapped a wrist shot on net and Smith turned that aside as well.
Finally, though, Nashville was able to use the third to get back into the contest. Thanks to a Connor Murphy elbowing penalty, Shea Weber blasted a shot past Smith on the ensuing power play to cut the Coyotes lead in half and tied the franchise record for most power play goals in a season with 14.
Then, with Rinne pulled for the extra attacker, Ryan Johansen won a face-off deep in the Arizona zone back to Roman Josi who eventually put a shot on net knowing Filip Forsberg was generating some traffic. The puck went off of Forsberg for his franchise-tying 33rd goal of the season and to force overtime.
“He’s a special player, a special talent,” Weber said. “We’re fortunate to have him on our team. You forget how young he is and how much he is going to keep getting better and how much he is going to keep growing.”
The Predators were 1-12 in games decided inside the extra session this season but Josi wasted no time in trying to improve that stat. Shortly after the draw at center ice, Josi streaked down the wing, drove to the net and went full Bobby Orr to give Nashville the victory.
“I’ve never played with a guy like him before,” Johansen said. “He’s incredible. That’s two games in a row now that I’ve been lucky enough to be on the ice when Forsberg did what he did and Josi did what he did. How easy did he make that look?”
Johansen also assisted on this goal of the year candidate by Forsberg on Tuesday.
“You see how hard it is in this league to come back when you’re down in games,” Johansen said. “Anytime you’re able to have that resiliency and focus to get yourself back in a hockey game like this, it’s definitely a confidence booster for our group.”
Nashville improves to 41-26-14 and will conclude their 2015-16 regular season on Saturday in Dallas.
Puck drops at 7pm Central.