Saturday night's all right.
Erik Haula scored the game-winner in overtime, and Juuse Saros stopped all 28 shots he faced, as the Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars in a massive contest by a 1-0 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
The result gives the Preds 58 points on the season - three points ahead of Dallas - to maintain their hold on the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Saturday's tilt between the two rivals was undoubtedly Nashville's biggest regular-season outing in recent memory. With postseason positioning on the line, and in a game that only required one goal to win, the Predators found a way to send the home crowd into a frenzy and boost their playoff hopes in the process.
Video: Coach Hynes looks back on Preds' 1-0 win in OT
"What a game," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "You knew both teams were going to come in and play as hard as they could, and I thought it was a hard-fought battle by both teams. There wasn't a lot of room on the ice, lots of physicality, I thought both goaltenders played really well, playoff-style game, playoff-style atmosphere and our fans were fantastic. I just like the fact that we were able to find a way to win and stay with it against a really good team. It was a good night for us."
Video: Saros, Haula star in Preds' 1-0 overtime victory
"It's [a] big [two] points and a big win," Saros said. "It was a really, really tight game, and we just stayed with it and eventually got it done. But it's a big [win], and we still got some business to do here, so it's a fun, tight race."
Video: DAL@NSH: Saros stops 28 shots in 14th career shutout
All 60 minutes of regulation time went without a puck behind either goaltender - Saros for the Preds and Anton Khudbon for the Stars - but it wasn't for a lack of effort by either side. Both clubs traded chances throughout the game's first 40 minutes, and as the Predators readied for the final frame with so much on the line, the bench boss could sense his team was dialed in.
"There was excitement in the room," Hynes said of his team at the second intermission. "You can walk around your locker room, and sometimes you can see there maybe isn't a ton of energy or there's nerves or they're overconfident, but it was just focused, intense, and I really liked them all day. They came in this morning, we didn't skate, but there was just a calmness, there wasn't a lot of joking around, but you could tell they were focused.
"Then, you walk in the room later tonight before the game, and there was a whole different level of energy and excitement to play. Going into the third period, 0-0 game, I thought we liked the way that we were playing. We just went out, it was basically a 20-minute hockey game, we talked about a couple things we needed to do, but we were energized going into the third period."
The home fans at Bridgestone Arena felt the same way, and although the capacity remains at just 33 percent of the usual 17,159 spectators, Saturday's crowd provided the best atmosphere of the season. Particularly, the first TV-timeout standing ovation of the season came midway through the third period, and moments like that helped to propel the Preds when they needed it most.
"It was awesome," Haula, who is in his first season with the Preds, said of the crowd. "The one timeout in the third period after we had them hemmed in for a long time, just the crowd standing up, I thought it was pretty loud. You wouldn't think it was 33 percent capacity, but it's awesome and you can just tell how great the fans here are. I haven't been on this side to witness a full barn, but [I got a] good taste of it."
"That was unbelievable," Saros said of the fans. "It's special for us, and just a lot of guys were saying how we missed that. It's huge for us, and the crowd is one of a kind."
The Predators continued to harness that energy through the end of regulation, and shortly after the home team had a power-play opportunity in overtime, Preds defenseman Matiias Ekholm drove to the Dallas net and threw a wraparound feed in front where Haula scored Nashville's biggest goal of the season.
Video: DAL@NSH: Haula nets Ekholm's feed for overtime winner
"I saw Ekky had good speed, and he was going in there and I had a feeling he was going to try to wraparound," Haula said. "I was just trying to tie myself in, and luckily it hit my tape and back of the net. It was a good feeling."
Haula was then mobbed by his teammates, as Nashville finished their season series with five victories past regulation time over the Stars and recorded their 17th win in their last 24 tries overall.
Saturday's triumph doesn't guarantee anything in the way of a postseason-clinching scenario for the Preds, but it certainly upps the odds to remain in that fourth spot with just four games to go.
After the Predators admire their work for the rest of the evening, they'll turn their attention to a pair of games in Columbus against the Blue Jackets and two more chances to collect all the points they can before the regular season concludes in just over one week.
"We need to make sure that you enjoy tonight, and then we've got to focus in on Columbus," Hynes said. "The big thing is this is the National Hockey League, and if you're not prepared, mentally and physically, to play the way that you need to play, then you may not win hockey games. Our job right now is we accomplished the mission tonight, but we have a big week ahead of us. Starting tomorrow, we've got to make sure we're focusing in on Columbus… You can be too high with this one, but it's not going to do us well. So, like we've always said, don't get too high on this one. Let's enjoy it, but let's make sure we're ready to go this week and take care of business."
Video: Haula nets OT winner, Saros, Predators shut out Stars
Filip Forsberg, Brad Richardson and Alexandre Carrier all returned to the Nashville lineup tonight after missing time due to injury. Forsberg missed 17 games, Richardson missed 25 games and Carrier missed 13 games.
Forwards Viktor Arvidsson (upper-body, day-to-day) and Nick Cousins (non-COVID illness) were out of the lineup tonight.
With their three-game homestand complete, the Predators will head to Columbus for their final road trip of the regular season. Nashville will face the Blue Jackets on Monday and Wednesday (both games at 6 p.m. CT) before returning home to host Carolina next Saturday and Monday to finish off the regular-season slate.