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Panthers fall short in shootout loss to Predators

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Filip Forsberg's goal in the fourth round of the shootout propelled the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 win Saturday against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena.

Florida scored two goals with less than a minute remaining in regulation to tie the game 2-2 and force overtime. Forsberg had the lone goal in the shootout.

"I think we outplayed them for all 60 minutes and they got two lucky bounces in the end," Forsberg said. "Obviously it was tough, but we played really good in the overtime and could've scored in the overtime. We really deserved this win."

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo stopped 48 of the 50 shots he faced and denied the Predators' first three shootout attempts before Forsberg scored. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 28 saves through overtime and went 3-for-3 in the shootout.

"It's always fun to play against the top guys in the League, and I always feel like Luongo is one of those guys," Rinne said. "Anywhere he plays, he gives his teams a chance to win. He's just a really good goalie and fun to play against."

Colin Wilson and Matt Cullen scored for the Predators, who held a 2-0 lead until Rocco Grimaldi and Nick Bjugstad scored 12 seconds apart in the final minute of the third period for the Panthers.

Nashville got off to a good start in the first period, peppering Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo with six shots on goal four minutes into the period. Luongo came up big and the period went scoreless despite a 14-4 shot advantage for Nashville.

"I don't think it really fazed us," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "We talked about that after the first period. We didn't want to change anything. We didn't want to do anything differently. We didn't want to get frustrated. Just continue to play the same game the same way."

Luongo was spectacular for Florida once again in the second period, making 18 saves and keeping his team in the game.

"They were just throwing pucks from everywhere," Luongo said. "I was able to get in the game early and get a good feeling going. Unfortunately, both their goals weren't shots on net. They were just deflected off our guys, but we were able to battle back."

Wilson gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with 1:27 remaining in the second period when he made an attempt to pass from behind Florida's net and it went off of a Panthers defenseman and past Luongo. Nashville outshot Florida 33-18 through 40 minutes.

The Predators had a two-man advantage for 1:31 in the third period but did not convert.

Florida had a power-play chance of its own shortly after and Rinne made arguably the save of the game on Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes. Rinne was down and Hayes had a seemingly wide-open net, but Rinne was able to extend the paddle of his stick and make the save.

"A game like that can be hard when the play seems to be pounding one way," Laviolette said. "All of the sudden they come down, and there's got to be this save that's made. It's not just a regular save. It's an incredible save. You've got to stay sharp the entire game, and he did a good job of that."

Cullen made it 2-0 at 13:01 of the third period. Derek Roy created a turnover in the Florida zone and gave the puck to Cullen, who was able to fire a wrist shot past Luongo for his third goal of the season.

Grimaldi cut Nashville's lead in half with 42.6 seconds remaining when he fired a shot that found its way through traffic and past Rinne. It was Grimaldi's first NHL goal.

Twelve seconds later, Bjugstad tied the game 2-2. The puck was blocked in front and found its way to Bjugstad at the top of the faceoff circle. He was able to fire a shot that found its way past Rinne.

"It was really exciting to see [Grimaldi] score right there with about a minute left," Bjugstad said. "We just wanted to get it in and get it to the net. That was the objective there. Just a good forecheck all around by the guys. We've got to play more consistent throughout the whole game."

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