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Weber scores twice to lift Predators past Devils

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said he's been telling anyone who will listen that defenseman Shea Weber is having his best season and is deserving of consideration for the Norris Trophy.

After Weber scored two goals, including the game-winner, in the Predators' 3-2 overtime victory against the New Jersey Devils on Friday, it's getting harder and harder to argue with Trotz.

Weber scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season, tops in the NHL among defensemen, after being a game-time decision because of an upper-body injury. He did not practice Thursday after missing most of the third period of a 4-3 win Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Friday he scored 1:29 into overtime on a wrist shot from close range following an odd-man-rush led by Colin Wilson. It came moments after Predators goalie Carter Hutton stopped Devils forward Michael Ryder on a breakaway.

"It was good that Shea decided he needed to play tonight, and he made a difference," Trotz deadpanned.

The Predators tied the game with 10.8 seconds remaining in the third period on a goal by David Legwand. Nashville (25-23-8) was playing its first home game after ending a four-game road trip to Western Canada 2-1-1.

Weber is one off the team lead in goals, which is held by Craig Smith.

"He's one of the best at his position, plain and simple," Trotz said of Weber. "He's our building block. That's where you start, with a guy like Shea. He's a difference-maker in this business. There's not too many guys who are at his level, difference-makers in the League. If you've got a couple on your team, that's pretty good."

Weber was reluctant to talk about himself, praising his teammates instead, so the task was left to Legwand.

"It's going to take a lot to keep him out of a hockey game," Legwand said. "He loves playing the game and he's shown that over the course of his career. He was big for us tonight, obviously the first one and in overtime -- two huge goals -- and a big way to go into tomorrow night."

The Predators visit the St. Louis Blues in a Central Division game Saturday. The win was Nashville's second straight; since Dec. 28, the Predators are 9-5-4.

They tied the game with Hutton pulled for an extra attacker. Seth Jones worked the puck at the right point to Roman Josi at the left. Josi unleashed a slap shot that deflected off a player in front and caromed to Legwand, wide open on the right side, where he slammed it in for his 10th of the season.

Jones was on the ice in place of Weber, who was gassed after playing a shift that lasted 1: 44. Weber went for a change with 32 seconds left.

The Devils (23-21-12) started the night one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. In a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Devils also allowed a tying goal in the final minute of regulation. Devils coach Pete DeBoer bristled at the notion that the two games might have had something in common.

"It happens to everyone," DeBoer said. "It's an 82-game schedule. It happens to everybody. You guys all look for tendencies, 'Oh, they can't hold a lead. Oh, they can't score.' You know what? Give me a break. It's four games in six nights. We battled hard. We got an unfortunate bounce at the end. We'll take the point, we'll move on."

New Jersey's Patrik Elias tied the game 1-1 at 13:00 of the second period when his mild wrist shot from the left side, which looked as if it were going wide, deflected off the top of Hutton's catching glove and fluttered into the net. It was Elias' second straight night with two points, after he scored the overtime winner at Dallas.

Elias then assisted on Jaromir Jagr's go-ahead goal. In trademark fashion, Jagr skated out from behind the net, turned and hit Hutton in the chest with the puck, which then dribbled under Hutton's catching glove into the net with 61 seconds left in the second.

With career goal No. 698, Jagr had his second straight two-point night; the third member of the line, Travis Zajac, had two assists.

Trotz praised Hutton for battling despite allowing two questionable goals.

"Yeah, every goal I want back," said Hutton, who is 13-8-2. "That's my job, but it's one of those nights. … We were pretty resilient tonight."

Weber showed he wasn't ailing by scoring 6:45 into the game. Devils goalie Cory Schneider mishandled the puck behind his net and Nashville's Patric Hornqvist shoveled it high in the zone to Weber. Schneider got back in his crease and set himself but only briefly before Weber rocketed in a 32-foot slap shot.

Nashville is 2-22-2 this season when trailing after two periods. They were down 2-1 at the second intermission Friday.

"I think it's just a confidence builder in here," Weber said. "We know we can do it. We know how good we are when get the first goal and have the lead, but we have to find a way to come back in games and win those games that we're behind."

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