scored twice and Greg Johnson posted his fourth short-handed goal of the season as the Nashville Predators put forth a passionate team effort to defeat the Calgary Flames 3-2 Tuesday night at Pengrowth Saddledome. Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves in the win, which gives the Predators a record of 36-19-7 on the season and three out of a possible four points in the first two games of a four-game West Coast road trip.
"It was a great response by the leadership group," assistant coach Peter Horachek said of the team's veterans, who called a closed-door team meeting on Monday to address recent subpar play and a high number of penalties being committed. "They had everybody prepared for the game."
The event was a hard-hitting affair early, as revamped Nashville lines--necessitated by injuries and call-ups--provided a spark to the Predators. Johnson collided with Flames defenseman Rhett Warrener at center ice about a minute into the game, and an ailing Warrener never returned to the contest. Rookie defenseman Dion Phaneuf delivered a heavy hit on Nashville center Scott Nichol in the opening minutes as well, but the Predators manufactured the better scoring chances in the first half of the period by capitalizing on Calgary's neutral zone turnovers.
The Flames began to swing the pendulum back in their favor after Phaneuf hit the crossbar with a floating shot from the left point near the 12:00 mark. But Calgary's pressure went unrewarded, and the Predators struck first at 15:18. Hard work by the line of Legwand, Jerred Smithson and Steve Sullivan created a scoring chance that ended with the puck behind the net. With Smithson digging among legs along the end boards, the puck squirted free to Legwand, who had just enough time to tap it out front to Sullivan on the goal line. Sullivan's shot was stopped by Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, but Legwand stepped off the end boards to chop the rebound in off Kiprusoff's stacked leg pads.
Vokoun was forced to make four big saves in the final two minutes of the first period, and defenseman Kimmo Timonen made a crucial play to lift the stick of Marcus Nilson and prevent a sure goal with 30 seconds left. But shortly after that, Timonen left the team bench early for the first intermission and did not return to the game due to a hand injury. (He is considered day-to-day.) His absence put more responsibility on the shoulders of the five remaining blueliners--a group that included Greg Zanon, who was recalled from Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate earlier Tuesday. "The young 'D' came up big," Horachek said. "Zanon played an excellent game."
Calgary tied Nashville at 1-1 only 51 seconds into the middle period, during the waning ticks of a power play that had carried over from the first. Forward Jarome Iginla was on the left boards in the Predators' zone when he spotted Phaneuf waving his stick and moving from the left point into the high slot area. Phaneuf one-timed Iginla's pass and beat Vokoun.
Nashville wasted little time formulating a response, as Legwand scored to retake the lead just 1:30 later. A dump-in by defenseman Dan Hamhuis and the determined efforts of Smithson and Sullivan in the right corner allowed Sullivan to gain possession and shovel the puck to Legwand at the right face-off dot for a wrist shot. Kiprusoff made the save, but a fast and long rebound came straight back up the slot in the path of Legwand, who retrieved the puck, fired from the right hash marks and easily beat Kiprusoff before the diving goalie could recover from his positioning for the first stop. Legwand's second goal of the night made it 2-1 at 2:21 of the second period.
"Calgary is normally a team that doesn't give up a lot of goals," Horachek said. "To score first and score again against them...our second goal and that response were key."
Not long after Nashville's second tally, Kiprusoff robbed Zanon on a chance from the left face-off dot by suddenly emerging from traffic to get his right leg pad in front of a wide open net. Calgary's forecheck began to hem the Predators in their own zone around the 6:00 mark, and the pressure resulted in a tripping penalty to Nashville defenseman Shea Weber at 8:40. On the ensuing face-off in the Predators' zone, Mike Sillinger won it back to the corner where Zanon fired it hard around the side boards. Phaneuf attempted to keep the puck in the zone at the right point, but he was rushed by Johnson who chipped the puck past the defenseman. Phaneuf fell, sending Johnson off on a two-on-one with Sillinger on right wing. At the top of the left circle, Johnson wound up for a slapshot that Kiprusoff got a piece of before it angled into the net. The short-handed goal at 8:50 put Nashville ahead 3-1 and silenced the Calgary crowd.
The Flames had seemingly cut the margin to one at 15:05 of the second period on a play that sprung from two Nashville defenders' inability to get a handle on the puck behind their own goal. A wraparound attempt by Nilson went across the slot in front of a down-and-out Vokoun and ended up on the stick of forward Shean Donovan. His backhander from the goal line sent the puck behind Vokoun, allowing pinching defender Jordan Leopold to make a diving play to slide the puck from between the goaltender's legs into the net. The goal was waved off, however, and Calgary was penalized for having two many men on the ice before the puck crossed the goal line.
The Flames did eventually make it 3-2, executing a nice give-and-go play between Kristian Huselius and Robyn Regehr for Calgary's second power-play tally of the game 4:19 into the third. Huselius, who scored the redirection goal, came close on at least two more occasions midway through the third, but was turned away by Vokoun each time. At the other end, an offensive flurry by the Predators near the 12:00 mark nearly resulted in Legwand's hat trick goal, but the center fired the puck wide from the high slot.
Vokoun contributed several saves down the stretch--including impressive stops against Tony Amonte and Iginla--to secure his 30th win of the season and snap the Predators seven-game road losing streak.
"We just played a very, very hard, determined game," Horachek said. "We got good efforts from all four lines."
Next the Predators travel to Vancouver for a Thursday night game against the Canucks, then they wrap up the road trip with a Saturday matinee in San Jose. The team's next home game is Tuesday, when the Canucks visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center for a rematch as Nashville kicks off a four-game homestand. Tickets are still available for those games and can be ordered by calling (615) 770-PUCK, ordering online, or visiting the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster outlet.
Four new combos: The Predators stepped onto the Pengrowth Saddledome ice with four new forward lines Tuesday. Injuries to Yanic Perreault, Scott Walker, Vernon Fiddler and Scottie Upshall, plus the recall Tuesday of forward Jordin Tootoo from Milwaukee of the AHL, necessitated the changes. Tootoo skated with Mike Sillinger and Paul Kariya; David Legwand played with Steve Sullivan and Jerred Smithson; Greg Johnson centered Martin Erat and Adam Hall; and Scott Nichol skated between Darcy Hordichuk and Scott Hartnell. "We were playing a very physical team and we added a little grit and size to each of the lines," assistant coach Peter Horachek explained.
Notes: The Predators are 4-0-1 in their last five games against Calgary, including a 3-0 record this season... Nashville is now 22-0-4 when leading after two periods... Nashville was outshot by Calgary 32-26. The team is now 21-12-7 when outshot by its opponent... David Legwand scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season Tuesday, marking his first two-goal game of 2005-06 and the ninth of his career. The two-point effort was also his second multi-point game of the season. He finished the game with four shots and a +2 rating. The Predators are 20-6-4 with Legwand in the lineup this season... Johnson scored his fourth short-handed goal of the season against Calgary, which ties him for the team lead with Steve Sullivan and ties his career-high set in 2003-04. It was also the game-winner, which gives him two short-handed, game-winning goals in his last three games. (He scored a short-handed goal--also the game-winner--last Thursday against Vancouver.) Tuesday's goal was his 12th career short-handed goal and his 11th as a Predator, extending his franchise record. He now has two game-winning goals on the season and 18 for his career... Tomas Vokoun earned his 30th win Tuesday, which ties him for third among NHL goalies in that category... Jerred Smithson assisted on both of Legwand's goals to post his second multi-point game of the season and of his career. He also logged a season-high 15:04 of ice time. He finished Tuesday's game with a +2 rating and went five-of-seven (71 percent) in the face-off circle... Steve Sullivan registered assists on both of Legwand's goals, scoring career points 500 and 501 and assists No. 299 and 300. The multi-point game was his 15th of the season, which ranks him second on the team behind Paul Kariya (18)... Mike Sillinger assisted on Johnson's game-winning goal and now has points in each of his last three games (1g-2a)... Greg Zanon assisted on Johnson's goal to post his second career NHL assist in his third NHL game... Jordin Tootoo, appearing in his 18th game with the Predators this season, logged his highest total ice time of the season Tuesday (12:18)... Dan Hamhuis missed his season-high ice time by four seconds (27:28) and was a +2 with three blocked shots... Shea Weber and Greg Zanon each blocked a game-high five shots... The Predators are 21-12 in one-goal games... Scratches for Nashville were Vern Fiddler, Scottie Upshall and Danny Markov... Attendance at the Pengrowth Saddledome was 19,289--a sellout crowd.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:52)
Official Super Stats