Pekka Rinne's 500th game was one to remember.
The goaltender made 22 saves and Viktor Arvidsson scored the winner in overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Verizon Center. The victory is Nashville's third consecutive in the win column - and second straight in overtime - and gives them the season sweep over Washington. The Preds now possess 35 wins and 81 points overall on the season.
Rinne starred throughout the night, and after a slow start from the Preds, they regrouped to shut down one of the League's top teams in their own building and collect a solid road win.
"There weren't a lot of chances and just a tight hockey game," Rinne said. "You could tell that it meant a lot to us, and we needed these points. There's been a lot of games the last couple years that haven't gone our way in OT, and winning that game in OT, Arvi putting that in the back of the net. It was a huge one."
"They were a little bit quicker than us in the first, and we were able to find a gear halfway through the second for the rest of the game," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought we started to push the pace and control it a little bit better, but it was pretty solid game once we got going."
Washington took a 1-0 lead at 11:41 of the first with a goal from Brett Connolly, but with just over a minute left to play in the second period, James Neal struck for the third time in his last three games, taking a Kevin Fiala pass and snapping his 21st of the season past Braden Holtby to even the score before the intermission.
Video: NSH@WSH: Neal wires a shot past Holtby
The final frame solved nothing, leading to a 2-on-1 in overtime with Viktor Arvidsson picking his spot and beating Holtby for his 25th goal of the season and sending the visitors away with two more points on the ledger.
On the road, at this point in the season, to put forth an effort against a team such as Washington, it certainly builds self-assurance in the Nashville dressing room - and the Preds will take all they can get.
"It meant a lot, definitely gives us confidence going forward," defenseman Roman Josi said. "One of the toughest buildings to play in this year on the road, and we really executed, especially from the second period on. We really executed our game plan, played really well defensively and capitalized on our chances. It was a great road win for us."
When Pekka Rinne took up position in his crease to start Thursday's contest in Washington, he became just the 67th goaltender in NHL history to appear in 500 career games.
And while he's certainly had nights when he's had to make more saves or play a larger role, it was still classic Rinne, doing what he's done for the past nine seasons in the Nashville net, stopping shot after shot to lead his club.
Video: NSH@WSH: Rinne uses his pads to deny Ovechkin
"He was great," Laviolette said of Rinne. "If you have a milestone game like that, it's always good to be really sharp the way he was. It makes you feel good about it, so I'm happy for him."
"He played a great game," Josi said. "They're a dangerous team and especially in the first they had a lot of chances. He made a lot of big saves and really deserved that win."
Video: Arvidsson tallies OT winner to lift Preds past Caps
An area of Nashville's game that has been less than perfect over the past two seasons, the Predators have now won consecutive games in overtime. And even when the Preds have lost in the extra session as of late, they've noticed a change in their game when things go past regulation time.
It's clearly working now.
"You get more comfortable and you learn from your mistakes," Arvidsson said of OT play. "I think we've done that, and we play it safer and take advantage of their mistakes, but you learn every game, every time you get the chances to play 3-on-3."
"We've been playing a lot of high-scoring games, scoring a lot of goals and giving up a lot of goals," Rinne said. "Tonight, we showed that we can play against one of the top teams in the League and be really solid defensively and didn't give them a lot. That gives us confidence moving forward."
Forward Colin Wilson missed Thursday's game in Washington with a lower-body injury. Kevin Fiala entered the lineup in Wilson's place, and defenseman Matt Irwin also skated for Nashville, taking the place of Anthony Bitetto.
Wilson, Bitetto, Brad Hunt, Harry Zolnierczyk and Vernon Fiddler (upper-body) were scratched for the Preds on Thursday.
James Neal has now scored at least 21 goals in each of his nine NHL seasons.
Nashville will now jet down to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Saturday and finish off their two-game road trip.