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Johansen Leads Preds to Dramatic Win, Spot Atop Central Division

Nashville Scores Go-Ahead Goal with 19.5 Seconds to Play, Can Win Central Division on Saturday Night

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Recap: VAN 2, NSH 3

Predators score three unanswered goals in 3-2 win

The Predators roared back from a 2-0 deficit and scored three unanswered goals on their way to a 3-2 win over the Canucks

  • 04:22 •

They're two points closer to another division title.

Nick Bonino tied the game with less than five minutes to play in regulation, and just when it seemed overtime would be a necessity, Ryan Johansen got a member's bounce with 19.5 seconds left to give the Predators a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

The win gives the Preds 98 points on the season, and coupled with a Winnipeg loss in overtime on Tuesday, Nashville sits alone at the top of the Central Division with one game to go.

In the penultimate contest of the regular season for Nashville, a disappointing first period led to an inspiring final 40, and Johansen put the exclamation mark on a game the Predators had to have to keep pace in the divisional race.

"They're proud guys, they play hard, they've had a lot of success and I think everybody knows what's at stake," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of his team. "That 2-0 score has not worked well for us. Probably the last four or five times that it's gone to 2-0, we haven't been able to bail out of it. So tonight was a good response for our guys where we didn't stop playing until the end and finally got the win late in the third."

"Everything in our game was a little bit off in the first," Preds forward Colton Sissons said. "Throughout the game we got better and better and in the third we were kind of just relentless all-out attack. I love to see that."

Vancouver had a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of play thanks to a pair of power-play goals from Markus Granlund and Tanner Pearson. However, it didn't take long for Colton Sissons to get the Preds on the board in the second stanza - just 37 seconds, to be exact - and give his club life, a boost that continued into the third.

Video: VAN@NSH: Sissons sneaks shot through Markstrom

"We definitely got better as the game went along," Johansen said. "I really liked our third period, how we stayed on the gas, and even in that last minute there we wanted to win the game."

Video: VAN@NSH: Bonino ties game late in the 3rd period

Nashville kept pushing in the final frame, and finally, Bonino deposited a loose puck into the cage at the 15:40 mark to send the home crowd into a frenzy. Then, in the dying seconds, Johansen tried to feed Viktor Arvidsson in front, but the puck never made it there.

Instead, Johansen's dish deflected off the stick of a Vancouver defender desperately trying to break up the play and skirted over the goal line to give Nashville their first and only lead of the evening and a massive two points in the process.

Video: VAN@NSH: Johansen nets go-ahead goal in final seconds

"For us, we've been in a battle for this division the whole year and it comes down to a couple of games now and we are going to keep doing what we tried to get to which is a solid 60-minute effort," Bonino said. "We watch the scoreboard tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday."

The line of Bonino, Sissons and Austin Watson, a trio that was reunited on Tuesday night in Buffalo after finding so much success in previous outings together, connected twice on Thursday with Watson chipping in a pair of assists in his second game back from a 27-game absence.

"Austin Watson's line looked really good," Laviolette said. "For what he's been through, he came back in really good shape. You could see it right away when he was on the ice… The defensive contributions, the block he had in Buffalo with 30 seconds to go where he lays his whole body in front of it. There's a lot he brings to the table and that line becomes really effective."

"We just try to play as responsible as we can and we have chemistry because of that," Bonino said of his line. "We are usually always under the puck just trying to support the defense and when we do get our chances, they are never crazy highlight-reel goals; most of the time they are just going to the net. It's easy to play with those two guys."

The regular-season finale and Fan Appreciation Night is set for Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, and the recipe is simple - win, and the Predators will win the Central Division for a second-straight season.

But before they can shift their focus to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there's still a bit of work to be done - and the Preds can't wait for the challenge.

"There's no question that when you're playing for something, it's a better habit than when you're not playing for something," Laviolette said. "When you don't play for something, as much as you can say the right things and do the right things, you can tell somebody to be desperate and then you can have somebody who's actually desperate and it's two different things. Our guys played like they were trying to accomplish something, and the work's not done yet."

Video: Predators score three unanswered goals in 3-2 win

Notes:

Forwards Rem Pitlick, Miikka Salomaki, Rocco Grimaldi (upper-body), Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau, as well as defensemen Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin, were scratched for Nashville on Tuesday.

The final game of the 2018-19 regular season comes on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena as the Preds host the Chicago Blackhawks on Fan Appreciation Night.

Following that final contest, the NHL will announce the schedule for the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. CT. Stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com for the entire Round One schedule and more information on the postseason in Smashville.

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