The Nashville Predators battled back in the third period, but it wasn’t enough as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Preds in overtime by a 2-1 score on Saturday night. Even with the loss, Nashville still gained a point, putting their record at 6-1-1, including a 2-0-1 mark to close out a three-game home stand.
“I thought we played a really good game,” Preds Captain Shea Weber said. “We stuck to it, and I thought [Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre] Fleury played well for them. I’m proud of the guys for battling back in the third, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way in overtime.”
The first period ended in a scoreless tie, thanks in part to the Predators killing off a five-minute major penalty assessed to Austin Watson for boarding.
“That’s huge, you could go down two, three goals sometimes if you don’t get a kill, so that was really big for us,” Weber said. “[Preds goaltender] Pekka [Rinne] stepped up, our PK was great and we kind of built off of that.”
Shots on goal were slim in the first, with Pittsburgh holding a 7-5 advantage after one.
The offensive attempts increased in the second and with less than five minutes left in the frame, Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz capitalized on a 3-on-2 rush for the Penguins, one-timing a puck to the top corner past Rinne for a 1-0 lead.
After registering 17 shots on goal in the second period, the Preds continued to push the pace in the third, and former Penguins forward James Neal extended his point streak to five games when he knotted the contest at 1-1 at the 11:27 mark of the third. A slew of chances eventually led to Neal collecting a loose puck at the side of the cage and roofing it past Fleury for his sixth goal of the season.
The game-tying goal led to overtime, where Phil Kessel won it for the Penguins just 41 seconds into the extra frame.
The final score didn’t favor the home team, but there was still reason for the Preds to be content with their effort on the evening.
“I thought we played a strong game and had a lot of chances,” Rinne said. “It’s obviously disappointing when you don’t get the win, but it’s a big point for us.”
“[The result] is disappointing, but our guys played their tails off tonight,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said.
Five out of six will do:
While a perfect 3-0-0 record was the ultimate goal for the Preds to finish out their home stand, five out of six points, courtesy of wins over Tampa Bay and Anaheim, plus an overtime loss to Pittsburgh, gives Nashville a 6-1-1 overall record as they prepare for their annual CMA trip, which will take the team to San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Minnesota before returning home on Nov. 7 to host a Central Division rival in the St. Louis Blues. For Nashville, that stat is reassuring to say the least.
“We are starting to play well, and we will just try to keep building on it,” Watson said. “We would’ve liked two points tonight, but at the end of the day it was nice to get the one before we hit the road.”
The Preds have talked about improving in every facet of their game, from 5-on-5 play to special teams and everything in between. After this latest home stand, things are trending in the right direction.
“We’ve just been talking about getting better every game and we’ve done that so far,” Weber said. “We just continue to improve and as long as we keep getting better throughout the year here, we’re going to be successful.”
Gif of the Game:
Skating with an extra attacker on a delayed penalty, James Neal rockets a puck upstairs to even the score in the third.
Pekka Rinne on ending the homestand and looking forward to the upcoming road trip:
“Our record is really good and you’ve got to be happy with that. As of late, the way we’ve been playing, especially this homestand, we’ve got to be happy with it and we feel comfortable and confident going away and playing some road games.”
James Neal is now on a five-game point streak, a stretch that’s seen him tally six goals and three assists. With his goal tonight, Neal has scored a goal against all 30 NHL teams.
Mike Ribeiro is on a four-game point/assist streak (1g-4a).
The Preds next contest comes on Wednesday at San Jose to begin a four-game road trip (televised on NBC Sports Network). Nashville will also make stops in Los Angeles, Anaheim and Minnesota before returning home Nov. 7 to host St. Louis on Hockey Fights Cancer night at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators tally more shots and hits than the Penguins but come up short in OT.
Infographic: Preds Topped in OT