Paul Kariya led the Nashville Predators to a dramatic 3-2 win over his former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim club Saturday night at a raucous Gaylord Entertainment Center, scoring a game-ending shootout goal to propel the Predators to their first 2-0 start in franchise history. Sharp goaltending by Nashville's Tomas Vokoun blanked Anaheim sharpshooters Sergei Federov, Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald in extra session to earn his 100th career win and set the table for Kariya to thrill the 16,279 in attendance.
"I never look up in the stands," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said when recounting the shootout, "but I just looked up in the stands [across the rink] for a second and I could see a gentleman with a Predators jersey on, about my age, jumping up and down, and everybody was standing in the building. To me, when you have an adult just going crazy and loving it, that's perfect for the game."
The exciting conclusion nearly overshadowed an impressive two-goal performance by Predators center Yanic Perreault, who scored consecutive goals to turn a 1-0 Nashville deficit into a 2-1 lead. His first came on the power play 7:22 into the second period. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis fired a pass from the left point to Steve Sullivan, who was positioned to the left of the Anaheim net. Sullivan quickly zipped the puck across the crease to an approaching Perreault, who deposited it before Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere could complete his slide to cover the right side of the cage. Perreault's second came 37 seconds into the third period, just six seconds after the expiration of another Anaheim penalty. Again Sullivan assisted on the play, as did Scott Walker.
"You always want to show that you can still do it," Perreault said with a quick smile. "To get a goal, it gives you a little bit more confidence. I think in the first game I was trying to keep it simple and not do too much, but tonight I was keeping the puck a little bit longer and gaining more confidence."
Anaheim recaptured the momentum midway through the third, generating multiple chances with Nashville's David Legwand in the penalty box for hooking. Shortly thereafter, the Ducks tied the game on an even-strength goal by Petr Sykora with 4:31 left in regulation. The resultant 2-2 score would stand through regulation and a five-minute four-on-four overtime period, bringing about the National Hockey League's newly instituted shootout, which is designed to determine a winner in all 2005-06 regular season games that remain tied after overtime. It was the first shootout for either franchise.
Per the rules, each team selected three shooters to go one-on-one against the opposing goaltender. Vokoun made a left pad save on Federov to foil Anaheim's first attempt. Sullivan was then stopped at the left post on his chance. A stick save by Vokoun on Selanne was followed by a wide miss from the stick of Nashville defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Anaheim's third shooter, Andy McDonald had the best opportunity, but Vokoun again thwarted the attempt.
"You want the shooter to make the first move," Vokoun said. "Like on McDonald, I made the first move and got fortunate when I hit his stick. He lost the puck and it went into the corner."
When Kariya, who spent nine seasons with Anaheim, emerged from the Predators' bench and was announced as Nashville's third shooter, fans in the arena erupted. Trotz admitted after the fact that he had considered such a scenario when selecting his shooters earlier that afternoon.
"Before the game I was going, ˜OK, I've got Sully and Zidlicky, who have probably been a little bit better than Paul in the shootout,' " Trotz said. "And I was thinking, ˜Should Paul be in or not? He's playing against the Ducks.' And I said, ˜I'm going to put him third, because if we need a goal or we're down a goal or he can win it, what a great thing [that would be].' He's a guy that I don't think pressure really affects.... It's sort of a storybook ending, Paul Kariya scoring basically the winning goal against his old team."
Saturday's game marked the second time in two contests that Nashville has overcome a deficit to win. After a lackluster first period in which they were outshot 11 to six, the Predators turned the tables in the following frame with 14 shots to the Ducks' eight. The teams both finished the night with 35 shots, and Vokoun and Giguere each turned aside 33 of those chances. There were a total of 11 penalties called on the night, and Nashville managed to convert one of its four power play opportunities while Anaheim went 0-for-5.
The Predators now take their 2-0 record on the road for a three-game stretch that begins with a stop in Colorado on Wednesday, Oct. 12. That game, which begins at 8:00 p.m. CDT, will be televised live on FSN South and will be broadcast in the Nashville area on WGFX-104.5 FM.