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Predators nip Flames 5-3

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Greg Zanon post-goal celebration
Photo by John Russell
Greg Zanon (center), Paul Kariya (far left) and the GEC crowd celebrate David Legwand's eventual game-winning goal at 3:48 of the third period.

David Legwand posted a goal and two assists to lead the Nashville Predators to a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Flames Monday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Martin Erat also tallied once and added a helper as the Predators recorded their sixth straight win.

Nashville is now 32-11-3 and pulls within one point of the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks. The Predators' 32 wins lead the NHL and the club is currently ranked second overall.

With the game tied 2-2, Ryan Suter and Legwand scored in a 1:40 span early in the third period to put the Predators up by two. Kristian Huselius cut the margin to one with 2:54 remaining in regulation to make for a white-knuckle ending, but Scott Hartnell added an empty netter with :20.1 left on the clock to seal the victory.

"It's home ice and we have to come out strong, especially when it's tied after 40 minutes," Erat said. "We came out strong, finished well, and got two points."

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In addition to coming in quick succession, the goals by Suter and Legwand were remarkably similar in setup and execution. Both came off the rush, with a player carrying the puck into the offensive zone on the left wall and sending a pass across the slot to top of the right circle. In each case, a Predators player--forward Vern Fiddler on the first and defenseman Greg Zanon on the second--charged the net to create space for his teammates.

"Something [head coach] Barry [Trotz] has stressed in the last few weeks here is just driving through the middle," said forward Jerred Smithson, who got the primary assist on Suter's goal. "You get guys driving to the net. On Suter's goal, Fiddler just kicked it out to me and drove the net and brought the d-man with him. It opened up a seam there. Same thing with [Legwand's] goal, Marty Erat making a nice play to him. The thing is just guys wanting to go to the hard places, going to the net and crashing. Tonight we were rewarded with a couple goals."

Each team held and lost a lead in the game. Erat converted a centering pass from Legwand at 4:14 of the first period to put the Preds on top early. Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius scored in the final 2:37 of the first to give the Flames the lead heading into Period 2. Jason Arnott then tied the game 15:59 into the second when he netted a power-play goal off a brilliant feed from J.P. Dumont. That set the stage for Nashville's game-changing two-goal outburst early in the third.

"Obviously, [the Flames] have a great goalie (Miikka Kiprusoff) everyone knows about and we got lucky there, getting the two quick goals and making them play from behind," Legwand said.

The physical play typical of a Predators-Flames matchup was present from the drop of the puck. These two teams, which have a history of not liking each other, engaged in some hard hitting between the whistles and scrappiness after them.

"Early in the game they took a couple cheap shots at some of our top players and [Hartnell] went over there and got in their face," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought that showed a lot as a teammate and for what we wanted to do today. I thought we had lots of bang. Calgary's a very physical team. We had some big hits against them. We didn't give up an inch to them physically."

On his goal, Erat capped off a breakout play that started with the puck behind Nashville's net. Two quick passes put it on the stick of Legwand, who carried it down the right side and into the offensive zone. Legwand then dished to the middle for Erat, alone amid a spread-out group of Flames defenders. Erat's forehand shot may have clicked a defender's stick, but regardless it made its way past netminder Kiprusoff and into the left side of the Calgary net.

Highlights of Predators vs. Flames, Jan. 15, 2007 (1:20)

Late in the first period Tony Amonte fed Langkow near the right point of Nashville's zone. Langkow cut in with a step on a Predators' defenseman and deked the puck just wide of the reach of Vokoun. Just over two minutes later, a sharp-angle shot by Huselius was slowed by Vokoun's leg pads but still squeezed through. The play went to video review to determine if the referee's whistle had blown before the puck entered the net, but the goal was ultimately awarded.

Arnott tied the game 2-2 with the lone goal of the second period. With Nashville on the power play, Suter made a nice play along the right wall to prevent Calgary from clearing the zone. The puck was sent deep behind the Flames net and ended up on the stick of winger Steve Sullivan in the left corner. Sullivan skated up the left wall a few strides then zipped a pass across the low slot to Dumont at the far side of the goal. Kiprusoff moved laterally to protect against a shot, but Dumont cleverly made an extra pass and slid the puck back across the top of the crease to Arnott alone near the left post. Arnott swept the puck into the net well before Kiprusoff's right leg pad arrived.

"Obviously, a big goal on the power play," Trotz said. "[Arnott] scoring from a great play from J.P. [Dumont] and [Steve Sullivan]. That was a big goal for us. Then in the third, I had a good feeling we'd be fine in the third."

Next Nashville resumes Central Division play with a trip to Detroit for a Wednesday night matchup with the Red Wings, who currently trail the division-leading Preds by four points. The Predators then return home for games Thursday night (Columbus) and Saturday night (Chicago) before the NHL's All-Star break.

HARTNELL'S 200TH: Predators forward Scott Hartnell recorded his 200th NHL point--all accumulated as a Predator--when he scored the empty net goal with 20.1 seconds left in the game. Hartnell recorded points No. 198 and 199 on Jan. 5 when he recorded two goals in Chicago. He subsequently went four games without showing up on the scoresheet while on the verge of the milestone.

"I waited a few games for it, for sure," Hartnell said. "You think it might come easy the next game and then you start gripping the stick a little bit. Like i said, we got the win. It was kind of a nice relief there just to get the goal and have a two-goal cushion with 20 seconds left. You don't dream about [the milestone coming] on an empty net but a point's a point and I'm just kind of lucky the way it happened and how it worked out."

LINEUP MIX-UP: In an odd turn of events, Predators forward Alexander Radulov dressed for the game but was not on the official lineup sheet turned in by head coach Barry Trotz. He skated one shift and was ruled ineligible for the game by the on-ice officials. Midway through the first, Vern Fiddler--who was not initially dressed but was on the lineup sheet--emerged and skated his first shift of the game. He played the remainder of the match.

"That's just totally my fault," Trotz said. "We had two different lineups. Usually I have a very good routine. I check the lineup pretty closely. And today we had a little incident in our room, it sort of threw me off my routine. Today I handed it in and no one gets the blame but me on that one. I apologized to [Radulov] and [Fiddler] for the mix-up. That's my bad."

Fiddler, who skated in warm-ups before getting word that he was to be scratched for the game, had just completed his workout when he got the call to suit up and join his teammates.

"If you don't play you ride the bike," Fiddler explained. "I was getting my workout in and we saw kind of something happen on TV. I was actually done [with] my bike ride so I walked through the dressing room and I heard one of the trainers yell, 'Fidds, get your stuff on.'

"You just have to roll with the punches and focus as quick as you can and get out there."

Fiddler recorded one assist in the game, helping to set up Ryan Suter's third-period goal.

NOTES: David Legwand posted a goal and two assists and now has 15 points (6g-9a) in his last 13 games. His goal was the 93rd of his career, which ties Greg Johnson for second all-time in franchise history. (Scott Walker ranks first with 96 goals.)... Martin Erat had a goal and an assist. His goal was his first since Dec. 21. He had gone eight games without a goal... J.P. Dumont collected an assist to extend his point streak to seven games. He has 9 points (1g-8a) in that span.. Kimmo Timonen registered an assist and now has 13 points (2g-11a) in the last 14 games... Jason Arnott, who scored a power-play goal, has 12 points (9g-3a) in his last 12 games... Steve Sullivan posted an assist for 7 points (3g-4a) in the last six games... Jerred Smithson contributed an assist and has 3 points (2g-1a) in the past two games... Tomas Vokoun recorded his third straight win since returning from injury. It was his fourth in a row overall... The Predators have scored a first-period goal in nine straight games (16 goals)... Nashville outscored Calgary 1-0 in the second period and has outscored opponents by a combined 66-31 in the middle frame this season... The Predators scored four even-strength goals against Calgary and have now tallied 15 times at even strength in the past four games. Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff had not allowed a five-on-five goal in four games... Nashville's penalty killers were a perfect 2-for-2 against the Flames power play and are 30-for-33 in the last eight games... The Predators have now won six straight games and are 14-3-0 in the last 17 games. At home, the team has won four straight and are 16-3-3... Nashville is 23-4-1 when scoring first and 9-4-0 when tied after two periods... The Predators outshot Calgary 34-23 and are 11-2-0 when outshooting their opponents... Nashville is 8-2-2 against teams from the Northwest Division and 7-0-1 in the last eight against Calgary... Josef Vasicek and Alexander Radulov were scratched for Nashville.

Post-Game Comments

On the topic of Calgary being a good matchup for Nashville
I think Calgary's a top club for whatever reason we have a lot of Western guys that I think watch the Flames, Edmonton and those teams and you know they always seem to play well against them. You know you always expect the playoff type style game from the Flames and we want to test ourselves a bit like we talked about before the game, you know testing ourselves against a playoff style team that plays rugged, checks very well, you know they haven't given up a 5 on 5 goal in 4 ½ games. You look at their plus-minus in terms of goal-scoring against them 5 on 5 their almost double I mean they give up like one even strength goal a game. So we knew that we couldn't beat ourselves and I think we did a good job of doing that.

On Ryan Suter
I think we as an organization think very highly of Suter, you know he got a big goal for us, obviously the one that put us ahead, that was huge.  He's been playing well all year and I just think it's a little bit of an oversight by the NHL that they don't have him in that young stars game because you know he might be our most improved player this year.

On Scott Hartnell
You think about it he's 25 years old and 7 years in the league you know that's pretty good stats. Not too many guys can say they've been in the league for that long at that age, you know he was good I thought he played a real solid game. I give props to him early in the game... they (Calgary) took a few cheap shots at some of our top players and Harts went over there and got in their face and showed a lot as a teammate and for what we wanted to do today.

On the topic of playing physically
I thought we had lots of bang there, Calgary's a very physical team you know we had some big hits against them, we didn't give up an inch to them physically so I thought that was real strong for us. And I thought we played a real good first, then they scored a late goal and you think does that knock the momentum out. Our guys came out in the second and I thought we had a real strong second period. Obviously, a big goal on the power play. [Arnott] scoring from a great play from J.P. [Dumont] and [Steve Sullivan]. That was a big goal for us, then in the third I had a good feeling we'd be fine in the third.

On the two quick goals Nashville scored in the third period
I'm a part of the team. So, it's always a big lift in a tight game. It's always nice to get a lead going into the third period.

On starting the busy week with a win
They're a good team. They've been doing well and won a few games in a row. It was a little bit of a different time for us, with a 5 o'clock game. I think we played a solid game.

On the two quick goals Nashville scored in the third period
Obviously, we want to get a lead on a team like that when they're missing Jarome Iginla and a couple other guys. I think that's a big thing when you get a lead on them and make them play from behind. They got to open it up a little there. They have a great defensive hockey team with a great (defensive) core. Obviously, they have a great goalie everyone knows about and we got lucky there, getting the two quick goals and making them play from behind.

I think we were moving. Both teams were skating well. They played a good game too. It seems like we're always playing 4-3, 5-4 games against these guys. Two pretty good defensive hockey clubs.

On whether the 5:00 p.m. start time felt any different
I think our bodies and minds are set to go. When it's time to go, whether it's 5 o'clock, noon, 2 o'clock or 7, we have to be ready to go whenever.

On looking ahead to Detroit
It's big. I mean, they are right behind us. Obviously, it's a big game. We can separate ourselves with a big 'W' and move on from there.

On playing strong defensively
We said, if we want to go into the playoffs and do some damage in there, we have to play a tight defense. In the past 30 games, we allowed too many shots on the net and we are trying to take that number down.

On playing a strong third period
It's home ice and we have to come out strong, especially when it's tight after 40 minutes. We came out strong, finished well, and got two points.

On what was said in the Nashville locker room during the second intermission
We said we have to play a tighter defense and we got the chances from it. Just to get the puck on the net and try to score.

On the level of frustration for Calgary
It's very frustrating. I thought the first was close enough and we played well enough to win that period. After that they kept their work boots on and we took ours off and that was the difference in the game.

On Nashville's breaks
You get what you work for, and they stuck to a game plan they trust and we got watching how they played and thinking that's how we should play. Instead of working and chipping it in and going after it like they were we were hoping for the stretch play and then turning it over.

Overall impression
I don't think we played them well as a team today.  It's tough to take.  They are a fast team and they used their chances well.

I don't think any of us played well today.

Overall impression
I thought we competed in some hard areas just did not sustain it long enough to get the win. Gave up 3 goals off the rush, 3 of the 4 goals were deflections. Time to get ready for Dallas.

It's a game where we gotta play really responsible hockey and we make two bad pinches and they score two more goals off the rush and that's the hockey game.


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