After falling behind 3-1 through two periods, the Nashville Predators mounted a fierce third-period rally to force overtime before suffering a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night at the RBC Center. Hurricanes defenseman Frantisek Kaberle won the game on a penalty shot 2:31 into overtime, awarded when Scott Hartnell was ruled to have thrown his stick in an attempt to eliminate a scoring chance by Kaberle. Though beaten on the penalty shot after Kaberle deked then angled left, Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun played a key role in stopping the early bleeding and helping the Predators take a point out of Raleigh.
"Tying that game up late, I think that showed a lot of character with the guys and showed what kind of drive they have even though we didn't play great for two periods," Predators assistant coach Peter Horachek said. "We played well enough, but [Carolina] certainly had the shots and chances against us in the first two periods and Tomas played great."
Nashville's record moves to 27-12-5 on the season with the overtime loss. The game was the second in a row in which the Predators came from behind in the third period to force an extra session; Wednesday night they lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers. The team has now earned points in each of its last four contests, going 2-0-2 in that span.
Forward Martin Erat sparked the Predators' comeback by scoring the first of two goals 3:06 into the third period. The tally, which was initially waved off by the closest referee then counted after video review, cut Nashville's deficit to 3-2. The Predators had fallen behind in the first on a trio of goals by Rod Brind'Amour, former Predator Andrew Hutchinson and Erik Cole. Brind'Amour notched his during Nashville's first power play, but the short-handed goal was matched four minutes later when Predators forward Steve Sullivan connected on his team's second power play to tie the score. Hutchinson's and Cole's goals came 2:10 apart and gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 cushion that would last through the second intermission. The score was indicative of the fact that Carolina largely controlled play during the first 40 minutes, outshooting Nashville 22-9 and generating a number of prime scoring chances by driving hard to the Predators' net. A spectacular performance by Vokoun, especially after Cole's goal 15:13 into the first, kept the game within reach and allowed Nashville to build momentum without interruption in the third.
With the score at 3-2, an offensive zone penalty to Carolina's Ray Whitney put the Predators on the power play with just under 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who assisted on Sullivan's first-period goal, emerged from behind his own net on a breakout play and carried the puck up to the red line before firing it into the offensive zone along the left boards. Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber started to head behind his net to stop the approaching puck as it curled around the end boards, but it never made it to him. Instead, it took an odd bounce off the glass and angled directly toward the vacated net. Gerber scrambled to recover but never reached the puck as it slid past him into the far side of the goal cage at 11:04.
A minute and a half later, Erat was slapped with a double-minor for high-sticking Bret Hedican. During the four-minute power play, Vokoun robbed Cory Stillman with a glove save but eventually gave up the go-ahead goal to Brind'Amour--his second of the night. Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky had missed wide right with a shot and Stillman retreived the puck in the corner. He initiated a quick tic-tac-toe passing play that sent the puck to Whitney in the rigth face-off circle, then on to Brind'Amour at the goal's doorstep. Vokoun stopped Brind'Amour's initial shot, but the Carolina captain got an immediate second crack at the rebound and slid it under Vokoun. The power-play goal, coming at 15:56, gave the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, the line of Erat, Paul Kariya and Yanic Perreault took the ice with intensity and desperation. In possession of the puck behind his own net, Erat fired it up the left wall to Kariya, who was pinned by a Carolina defender inside the Nashville zone but still managed to direct the puck off the wall toward Perreault. Perreault carried it from inside his own zone across the center red line and slowed up a bit along the left wall as Kariya and Erat displayed great hustle to join the play and make it a three-on-two rush. Perreault centered the puck to Erat who entered the offensive zone and cut to the right as he dropped the puck for the third man, Kariya. Kariya then returned the puck to the left-shooting Erat on the right wing and Erat could see lots of room to the short side. That's where he beat Gerber to tie the game at 4-4 at 18:51 and force overtime.
"I think it's all about resolve and will," Horachek said of the turnaround in the Predators' game. "We really came back out and played hard, and forced them to dump the puck in. We were more deliberate in their zone. We played harder."
About a minute into the extra session, defenseman Dan Hamhuis' left point shot nearly connected with Sullivan stationed next to Gerber for a deflection attempt. Gerber gloved the puck before it reached Sullivan though, and the ice began tilting in Carolina's favor two minutes into the five-minute period. The Hurricanes were buzzing and had Nashville scrambling on defense when Whitney received the puck in the slot and fed an oncoming Kaberle. The defenseman was unmarked and barreling down the slot, and as he moved to the left Hartnell tried to make a play on him. Sliding along the ice in front of Kaberle, Hartnell hoped to eliminate any low shot. But as he slid out of the play he let go of his stick in Kaberle's direction, which resulted in the penalty shot for Kaberle per NHL Rule 88 (a)--"Award a penalty shot if the stick or other object is thrown or shot at the puck or the puck carrier in the defending zone, preventing a reasonable shot or pass." Kaberle's one-on-one move against Vokoun ended the game at 2:31 of OT and gave Carolina the 5-4 victory, the club's sixth win in a row.
The Predators will play their next three games at home, starting with a 7 p.m. match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday. Roughly 1,000 seats remain for that contest, which features visiting rookie phenom Sidney Crosby in the two teams' only meeting of the season. On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils come to town for their lone face-off against the Preds, then the Central Division rivalry with the Columbus Blue Jackets heats up on Saturday. To order tickets to any of these games, call (615) 770-PUCK, buy online, or visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets start at just $10.
Notes: Frantisek Kaberle's penalty shot against Tomas Vokoun was the third of the season against the Predators. All three have come against Vokoun and all have resulted in goals. It was only the second overtime penalty shot against Nashville all-time, and the first OT penalty shot in franchise history that resulted in a goal. Since the Predators' inception, the club has faced 18 penalty shots--8 goals, 10 stops... Martin Erat registered the first two-goal game of his career Friday, and his fourth multi-point game of the season... Including his pair of helpers against Carolina, Paul Kariya has four assists in his last three games. He has accumulated seven points in his last six games. Sunday's game was his 13th multi-point effort of the season... Kimmo Timonen's goal and assist--both on the power play--give him his ninth multi-point game of season. The goal was his fourth on the power play this season, and he leads the team in power-play scoring (4g-20a-24pts)... With a power-play goal against the Hurricanes, Steve Sullivan extended his points streak to four games. He has six points in that span and seven points in his last six games... Perreault posted an assist Friday to extend his points streak to four games. He has six points in that span and has registered at least one point in 15 of his last 21 games... Ryan Suter assisted on Erat's first goal of the game for his 11th helper of the season... The Predators went two for four on the power play and seven for eight on the penalty kill... Nashville was outshot by Carolina 33 to 19 for the game, and the team's record drops to 14-9-4 when outshot by an opponent... The Predators are 3-4-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season... Mark Eaton logged a season-high 24:55 of ice time against Carolina... Shea Weber, playing in his second NHL game, posted two shots, two hits and one blocked shot in 12:34 of ice time... The Predators dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards for Friday's game... Jordin Tootoo, Jeremy Stevenson and Scott Nichol were scratches for Nashville against the Hurricanes... Attendance was 18,064 at the RBC Center
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