With the regular season winding down, the Nashville Predators hosted the team with the NHL’s best record at Bridgestone Arena in a matchup of two Vezina Trophy finalists. Goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Carey Price did their part to keep two of the League’s heavyweights tied through 60 minutes, but it was Filip Forsberg’s one-timer with Nashville on the man advantage in overtime that gave the Preds two points. The extra-time victory was the Preds second straight in an eventual run of four that would see Nashville become the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff berth.
“It’s a huge win for us, especially after being down after the second period and then winning the game,” Nashville blueliner Roman Josi said. “They are a great team, one of the best in the League. They have great defensemen and obviously Price is a great goaltender, so it’s tough to get a goal on them.”
Check back next weekend for Game No. 3 in our countdown!
Topping even Forsberg’s OT dagger on the power play, Mattias Ekholm’s goal, featuring a mix of skill, strength and improbability rings in as the clear winner for the contest’s top score.
After picking up the puck near center ice, Ekholm drove the play into the Montreal zone, split Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov, fell to his knees and then somehow recovered possession of the puck and flipped it past Price, who before that moment was riding a shutout streak of two-plus games. The Preds’ Swedish blueliner was pretty shocked at the turn of events himself.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Ekholm said. “It was a funky bounce, and it came out to me in the neutral zone. The middle was open, so I was just waiting for our guys to get out of the zone, I got in and the rest is pretty much a black-out moment. I don’t even know what happened.
“I flipped it up, I went down on my knees and somehow it ended up in the net.”
Nashville’s 2014 first-round pick, Kevin Fiala, didn’t really have a chance to let any nervous feelings build up prior to taking his first shift in the NHL.
After finishing a practice with the Milwaukee Admirals (the Preds’ American Hockey League affiliate), the winger found out he’d been called up to NHL and needed to be ready to play later that day in Nashville, more than 500 miles away.
“I had a normal day in Milwaukee and then, after practice there, coach told me that I had gotten a call up,” Fiala said. I [couldn’t believe it], it was crazy. I went home and took a shower and then got on a flight, and I came here a half hour before the game. It was pretty crazy.”
Roughly seven hours after being recalled, Fiala put three shots on goal in the Predators victory over Montreal. More importantly, Preds bench boss Peter Laviolette was pleased with the rookie’s performance, even after traveling during the day of the game.
“Things happen when he is on the ice,” Laviolette said of Fiala. “He is a player that gets the puck on his stick. You saw some of the things he did off the rush and in the offensive zone. The puck sticks to him a little bit and it’s a good thing when you are an offensive player who is able to get to the middle of the ice a couple of times.
“For coming and jumping into your first game and playing a top team in the League, I thought he had a really good debut.”
Gif of the Game:
Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Following Nashville’s OT win, a few of Ekholm’s teammates claimed they didn’t want to go overboard on praising the D-man’s improbable goal for his own sake. Chief among them, Josi facetiously said he didn’t want to be quoted as sounding too impressed.
“That was amazing; that was a great goal,” Josi said. “First he kind of chipped it to himself and then he fell [and scored]. That was sick, but we shouldn’t tell him too much, his head is probably a little too high right now.”