Photo by John Russell
Goaltender Chris Mason is congratulated by defenseman Marek Zidlicky (right) after Mason shut out the Avalanche 1-0 Saturday.
Scottie Upshall scored his second goal of the season 9:35 into the first period and Chris Mason stopped all 42 shots he faced to lead Nashville to a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore seemed to misjudge Upshall's long-distance shot, which the forward fired from just across the blue line during a rush up the left side.
"I thought I got good wood on it, but a shot from inside the blue line usually doesn't go in in this league," Upshall said. "Maybe he just misplayed the shot or it changed him up a little bit. When they go in like that you'll take them."
With the victory, Nashville moves to 10-4-1 on the season. The Predators have collected points in 11 of their past 12 games and are within two points of the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings, who handed them a 3-0 loss Friday to end Nashville's five-game win streak.
The Predators penalty killers were especially key in the win, nullifying a lengthy five-on-three Avalanche power play early and closing out the game two men down as well with a man in the box and Theodore on the bench for an extra attacker. In the first, penalties to Marek Zidlicky, Scott Nichol and Ryan Suter in a 1:01 span were partially offset by a slash from Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles 10 seconds later. Still, the Predators were shorthanded for 4:00 of the first period and ultimately killed off seven power plays in the game.
"I think we did an awesome job [killing penalties]," Mason said. "They've got one of the best power plays in the league and we knew that. We watched the video this morning. That was a big area that we wanted to shut down."
Photo by John Russell
Forward Vern Fiddler (left), here lining up against onetime Predator Andrew Brunette, was part of the penalty killing units that shut down Colorado's power play seven times Saturday.
Steve Sullivan nearly converted on two good scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes. The first, a short-handed breakaway in which he put the puck just wide after moving right to left in front of Theodore, led to Liles' penalty at 2:52. Sullivan's second opportunity came from the slot 10 minutes later, when he kicked a puck to his stick and fired a shot that was stopped by the Avalanche goaltender. Zidlicky also produced a pair of tough shots at the end of a fantastic solo rush down the left side. After pulling the puck around a Colorado defenseman and managing a shot in tight quarters, Zidlicky grabbed his own rebound, circled behind the net and unleashed a backhander that Theodore knocked down.
Defenseman Greg Zanon, playing in only his second game of the season for Nashville, blocked a dangerous scoring bid by Liles in the first and also made a diving play to prevent a goal by Joe Sakic. The defenseman, who recently spent time on injured reserve with a concussion, returned to Nashville Saturday afternoon following a brief conditioning assignment with the Predators' minor-league affiliate in Milwaukee. After playing back-to-back games with Milwaukee Thursday and Friday, Zanon delivered a strong performance in his third game in three nights.
"Zanon went down [to Milwaukee] and was really good for two nights," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said, "and I said, 'You know what? He's got great character and he's a player that wants to be here,' so I knew that adrenaline would carry him over more than anything."
The Predators' second period featured lots of time in the offensive zone and big saves by goaltender Chris Mason at the other end. Upshall started the period with a breakaway three minutes in but misplayed the puck between the circles and lost it into the left corner. With a little over five minutes gone, Mason stopped Tyler Arnason on a good chance in front then denied Milan Hedjuk a minute later on a short-side shot from low in the right circle.
J.P. Dumont was at the source of Nashville's best chances of the second period. He fired a juicy rebound of a Zanon shot wide around the 8:15 mark then was stopped by Theodore on a bang-bang play generated by Vern Fiddler behind the net seconds later. Dumont was also in the middle of a tic-tac-toe passing play that produced a nice scoring opportunity for Sullivan around the 11:00 mark.
Mason was called on the most in the third, stopping 19 shots in the closing 20 minutes as Colorado poured on the pressure. Nashville killed off four power-plays in the final period alone. Mason, making his fourth appearance of the season, was named the game's first star.
"Without [Mason], our penalty kill wouldn't have been anything tonight," Upshall said.
"We've got to learn that in the third period, when we have a lead, we can't take three or four or five penalties," captain Kimmo Timonen said. "Usually you lose those games. [Mason] was on top of his game today."
NOTES: Goaltender Chris Mason recorded his first shutout of the season and the fourth of his career Saturday against Colorado. He made 42 saves for his first home victory of the season. The shutout was the second of 2006-07 by Nashville (Tomas Vokoun blanked the New York Rangers 3-0 on Oct. 18). The Predators' last home shutout was recorded March 16, 2006, against Phoenix (2-0)... Scottie Upshall scored the lone goal of the game and has goals in two of the last three contests he has played in. Saturday's goal, his second of the season, was the eventual game-winner. His previous goal, scored on Nov. 1 in Edmonton, was the game-winner as well... The Predators penalty kill was a perfect 7-for-7 Saturday and is now 22-for-24 in the last five games... Nashville is 3-1-1 at home this season and 3-0-1 in its last four home games... The Predators have allowed more than 40 shots in two straight games after limiting opponents to less than 30 shots in the five previous games... Forward Steve Sullivan was 6-0 on faceoffs Saturday... With the victory over Colorado, Nashville is 5-1-1 against the Northwest Division this season... The Predators are 7-2 in one-goal games, 7-2 when scoring first, and 8-0-1 when leading after two periods... Darcy Hordichuk, Jerred Smithson and Mikko Lehtonen were scratches for Nashville... Attendance was a sellout crowd of 17,113.