The Preds are now 4-1-0 on the season and head home after capturing four out of a possible six points on the East Coast trip.
“It was a good road trip,” Neal said. “We talked about it going into the third period, you can have one win and two losses going home and it was a huge third period for us. We had a good win in New Jersey, and I thought we played our best game of the year on Long Island and didn’t get a win, so coming in here and pulling one out was good.”
Nashville struck first on Saturday, a constant through five contests this season, as Neal tallied his second goal in as many games to give the Preds a 1-0 advantage. The man-advantage goal came as Roman Josi fed Neal with a pass on the goal line before the Preds forward walked to the net and drove the puck far side to beat Craig Anderson.
Mark Stone tied the contest for Ottawa just 15 seconds into the middle frame before Mike Hoffmann gave the Senators a 2-1 lead. The Preds got it back though, as Craig Smith took a Mike Ribeiro pass in the slot and sniped it past the blocker of Anderson for a 2-2 tie headed into the second intermission.
“[Smith’s] goal was a real big goal because it puts you into the third period at an even score and you can sell a different message as you head out to the third period,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “You talk about winning 20 minutes and having a great road trip and the guys really played hard for that 20 minutes.”
Neal then replicated his goal from the first period, enacting the same move from the same spot on the ice to put the Preds up 3-2 with another power-play goal. With time winding down in regulation, Hoffman recorded his second of the night to send the game into overtime.
The Predators faced their first 3-on-3 overtime session in franchise history, with neither team capitalizing on the open ice.
After Bobby Ryan scored for Ottawa in the second round of the shootout, Filip Forsberg answered for the Preds before Neal finished the deal, beating Anderson on the forehand for the victory.
Preds netminder Carter Hutton recorded the victory for Nashville, turning aside 38 shots in regulation, plus two more in the shootout, for his first win in his initial start of the season.
“At some points we were back on our heels but we stuck with it,” Hutton said. “At this point, just getting the win and going home 2-1 instead of 1-2 is a big difference.”
The Predators will now head home to host Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Pittsburgh this week at Bridgestone Arena and the success on the first road trip of the season only provides confidence with three challenging opponents on the docket.
“It’s early in the season, but we’ve got a real good group of guys in there; they play hard for each other and I think that’s evident in the third period tonight with a good road win,” Laviolette said. “You’re going home with four out of six points and you like the way the team played in the loss [against the Islanders], you just didn’t like the result, so it’s good we’re going back in a good spot and we’ve got to win some home games now.”
Twice As Nice:
The forward’s two goals, one coming in the first period, the other in the third, and both on the power play, were mirror images of each other. On both occasions, Neal corralled a pass along the goal line from Josi before coming out to the front of the net on his forehand and pushing the puck past Anderson.
“He was good for us, he was picking up his pace and moving his legs and physical, physical on the puck, strong on the puck,” Laviolette said of Neal. “He’s been really noticeable the last few games.”
Neal is on a two-game point streak, having registered a goal and an assist Thursday night against the Islanders. The Whitby, Ont., native, who said he was surprised the same move worked twice on Anderson, is now tied with Smith for the team lead in goals with three.
“It worked the first time and it worked again, so that felt good and it was good to get our PP going,” Neal said. “We did a great job, [Hutton] was awesome in net in overtime and the shootout and gave us a chance to win.”
Gif of the Game:
Neal buries the shootout winner past Anderson, beating the Sens netminder for the third time that night.
James Neal on goaltender Carter Hutton registering his first win in his first start of the season:
“It’s just his attitude every day,” Neal said of Hutton. “He comes to the rink, he’s a fun guy to be around and he works hard every day and just waits for his chance. When you’re playing behind a guy like [Pekka Rinne], it’s tough but he works hard so it’s good to see him get a win tonight.”
Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis blocked a shot off of his right knee in the third period and left the game. Ellis has a lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated back in Nashville.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm skated in his 150th career contest on Saturday against the Sens.
The Predators will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena before Anaheim and Pittsburgh come to town on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
The Preds and Sens infographic looks at the road trip point leaders for Nashville.
Infographic: Sens Washed Away