The waning minutes of regulation got a little dicey, but Nashville Predators found a way.
Ryan Ellis scored twice and the visitors defeated the Calgary Flames, 4-3, on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The victory gives the Preds 21 wins and 49 points on the season, pushing them into the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and two points behind St. Louis for the third spot in the Central Division.
Calgary added all three of their goals in the final 3:43 of regulation, but Nashville hung on to record two big points.
"No matter how you look at it, it's a win," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. The guys played hard and we did a great job for 55 minutes and did a great job in the last 45 seconds just battling to get it done."
"The bottom line is we needed those two points," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "That puts us in a playoff spot right now with a few games in hand. We want to get back on a roll here and put a few wins together."
Video: NSH@CGY: Ellis goes five-hole for PPG late in 2nd
Ellis for Two:
Peter Laviolette has often spoken on green lighting his defensemen to jump into the play when they see an offensive opportunity. Ryan Ellis scoring - on what was essentially a breakaway - in the second period was Exhibit A.
After breaking out of their own end, Zolnierczyk carried the puck up the right side and found a streaking Ellis over the blue line, who then beat Calgary goaltender Chad Johnson glove side for his sixth of the season and a 2-0 Preds lead.
"The D was down the wall, so I knew it was either no one back or a forward back," Ellis said of the play. "I jumped in the rush, Harry made a great play right between two guys, and I just shot the puck."
A single goal wasn't enough, however, because before the middle frame was out, Ellis converted again, this time via a slap shot on the power play, for a 3-0 advantage and his first career multi-goal performance.
"It feels good, the way the last game against Vancouver went, we thought we deserved a little better in that one," Ellis said. "Tonight we worked for about 57 minutes and still got rewarded for it, so it's a good sign for our team."
Video: NSH@CGY: Forsberg buries Arvidsson's pass, pads lead
Goal-Scorers in Action:
In addition to the goal-scoring prowess of Ellis, Nashville got contributions from two of its big guns on Thursday. James Neal scored his team-leading 15th of the season - his first in eight games - and Filip Forsberg notched his 12th of the campaign as well as the ninth in his last 15 contests.
"It felt good to get going," Neal said. "It's been a couple games here, so I felt my timing was better tonight, and it was nice to get one and a big two points for our team."
Forsberg's goal pushed Nashville ahead 4-0, but after the Flames' late rally, stood as the game-winning goal. The third consecutive game-winner for the 22-year-old winger.
"You love when your goal-scorers are scoring goals," Zolnierczyk said. "That gives them confidence. It gives everybody else confidence. We just want to keep rolling here."
Video: NSH@CGY: Saros makes two stops on Flames' power play
Another start, another stellar performance from Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.
With the exception of a few bad bounces down the final stretch, the rookie netminder turned aside 32 Calgary shots, including 14 in the first period, to give his team an advantage all night.
For Saros, the confidence continues to grow each time he gets the call between the pipes, and it simply washes over the entire Nashville roster from there.
"He was great tonight," Zolnierczyk said. "We felt bad when we gave up that first one, a little unlucky off our stick… but he was lights out all game. At the end of the day, he did his job and we got the two points."
Laviolette summed up his goaltender's performance simply: "He was outstanding."
Video: Ellis, Saros lead Preds past Flames
Mike Fisher recorded his 300th NHL assist on James Neal's goal in the first period.
Craig Smith was back in the Nashville lineup in Calgary after he was scratched on Tuesday. Forward Colton Sissons and defenseman Brad Hunt were scratched for the Predators on Thursday.
The Predators made a minor trade during Thursday night's game, acquiring defenseman Andrew O'Brien from Anaheim in exchange for forward Max Gortz.
Nashville plays game four of their five-game trip tomorrow night in Edmonton as they face the Oilers for the first time in the brand-new Rogers Place.