In a scenario strikingly similar to Nashville's October 8 home win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Paul Kariya scored the only goal of a game-deciding shootout Thursday night to give the Predators a 5-4 road victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. With the win, the Predators push their record to 4-0-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in the Western Conference.
Steve Sullivan, Kimmo Timonen and Kariya combined for eight power play points in the game, which was the Predators' second on the road and the latter half of their first back-to-back contests. Nashville defeated the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night and will complete a run of three away games in four nights when they visit St. Louis on Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m., and the Central Division match-up will be televised on FSN South and broadcast on WNSR-560 AM.
"Tonight was a big win for us," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "We got [goaltender] Chris Mason a win and found a way to win back-to-back."
The Predators fell behind 1-0 early in the game despite showing more first-period intensity than in previous games. Petr Nedved scored the goal, an odd one on the power play that went in off of Mason's catching glove. Sullivan answered less than three minutes later to tie the game, and Timonen put Nashville ahead 2-1 with 2:37 remaining in the first. Both Nashville goals came on the power play.
"I think we recognized that we can't put ourselves behind the eight ball and come back every game," Trotz said. The Predators earned come-from-behind wins in each of their three first contests. "I stressed that [Wednesday] and [Thursday]. The guys, I thought, responded really well. We just had an unfortunate goal--the first one--which [Mason] gloved and popped up in the air and it sort of fell behind him. I thought we were much better in the first period than we had been for a while."
A penalty to Danny Markov early in the second allowed Phoenix to tie the game on a power play goal by Mike LeClerc at 1:39. Momentum swung to the Coyotes, whose dominance of the puck in Nashville's end drew another penalty at 3:50. Nashville turned the tide on the ensuing penalty kill, though, as center Greg Johnson notched a shorthanded goal to make it a 3-2 game. Johnson, who won a face-off in his defensive zone and skated hard the length of the ice to pursue a dump-in, was rewarded for his tenacity with a rebound that he easily deposited into a mostly open goal at the 4:16 mark.
Late in the second period, Coyotes defenseman Paul Mara tied it once again with the only even-strength goal of the game. Two calls against Phoenix at 19:12--Denis Gauthier for holding and Nedved for hooking--gave Nashville a 5-on-3 power play opportunity that carried over into the third period. With 1:04 expired in the third, the Predators recaptured the lead, 4-3, on Sullivan's second tally of the night. The play began with Kariya and Timonen taking advantage of the void left by two penalized Coyotes and patiently playing catch with each other along the right side. Suddenly Kariya, who was stationed deep in the zone, spotted Sullivan parked at the far post and threaded a rapid pass that Sullivan quickly fired into the half-open net.
Penalties took a toll on the Predators all night, repeatedly allowing Phoenix to claw back into the game after Nashville had seemingly created some separation. In all, 10 penalties were whistled against the Predators, and the Coyotes parlayed their time with the man advantage into three goals against previously unblemished Nashville penalty killers.
With Nashville less than three minutes away from a 4-3 win, Scott Walker was sent off for hooking. On the resulting power play, Mara fired a shot from the slot that deflected off teammate Ladislav Nagy's skate and past Mason to knot the game at 4-4.
Neither team scored during the five-minute overtime, despite a 4-on-3 power play for Phoenix and several close chances by Predators Walker and Johnson, who battled hard while visibly exhausted from a long shift.
In the first two rounds of the shootout, Simon Gamache and Sullivan were stopped by Coyotes goaltender David LeNeveu while Mason made saves on Oleg Saprykin and Petr Nedved. After Kariya beat LeNeveu low with his chance to start the third round, Nagy missed the net to end the shootout and the game.
"Special teams carried us tonight," Trotz said. "They were really strong and they got us timely goals. Right now we don't have all aspects of our game in order, but we have enough of them that are making a difference, and we're getting key goals when we need them. We're getting key saves when we need them."
Mason stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced, while LeNeveu stopped 22 of 26. Nashville finished the night 3-for-5 on the power play.
After completing the current road trip in St. Louis on Saturday, Nashville returns home for a three-game homestand that includes the Blues in a rematch on Oct. 20, the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 22 and the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 25. All games begin at 7 p.m. at the Gaylord Entertainment Center and tickets are still available. To purchase tickets, call 770-PUCK, order online at nashvillepredators.com or visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster location.
Game Notes: Steve Sullivan scored 2 goals and 1 assist in the game and now leads the NHL in scoring with 9 points (3g, 6a). He is also among four players tied for the league lead in assists with 6... After going 3-for-5 against Phoenix, Nashville's power play is ranked first in the league with a 33.3 percent conversion rate (7 of 21)... Kimmo Timonen scored 1 goal and 2 assists in the win... Paul Kariya collected 2 assists and four penalties. The two-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (awarded for sportsmanlike play and gentlemanly conduct) leads the Predators in penalty minutes with 14 and currently ranks 16th in the league--between Sean Avery and Todd Bertuzzi... Kariya is 2-for-2 in shootout attempts; Sullivan is 0-for-2... Sullivan and Kariya are tied with three other players for the league lead in power play assists with 4... Nashville tied the franchise record Thursday night for most shorthanded situations in a game (10). That number was met on two other occasions, most recently in a 5-4 loss to Washington on October 11, 2002.