Photo by John Russell
Predators celebrate Martin Erat's (left) third-period power-play goal that tied the game at 3-3.
The Nashville Predators rallied from two goals down against one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League Thursday night, notching a pair of power-play goals to force overtime before falling 4-3 in a shootout to the New Jersey Devils at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Viktor Kozlov scored the game-deciding goal and Brian Gionta tallied against Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun as well for New Jersey in the shootout, while Predators forward Steve Sullivan was stopped by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and Paul Kariya shot high and wide of the net on his chance.
"We came back from a two-goal deficit against a very good team, so disappointed? No," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "We took it to overtime and we gave it our best shot in the shootout, and whatever happens happens. Losing to Marty Brodeur in the shootout, there's no disgrace in that. That's for sure."
The Predators earn one point with the shootout loss and have now captured points in their last six games, going 3-0-3 in that span. Nashville's record moves to 28-12-6 on the season and 18-5-1 at home. The Devils, meanwhile, extend their winning streak to eight games with the victory.
The Predators netted two of their three goals on the power play--the other was the game's opening goal, which came 16 seconds after a Nashville power play expired. Not only did the Predators find success against the second-ranked penalty killing team on the road, but they also drew the very disciplined Devils into more penalties than usual.
"When our team moves its feet and skates, teams are going to have to take penalties against us," said Kariya, who assisted on Kimmo Timonen's second -period power-play tally that recaptured the momentum for the Predators. Nashville had started the game with a lot of jump but Patrik Elias' power-play goal at 18:23 of the first tied the game at 1-1 and seemed to rattle the home team's confidence somewhat. New Jersey tacked on two more in the second before Timonen's goal at 17:30 cut the deficit to 3-2 and tilted the ice decidedly in the Predators' favor.
"We came at them pretty hard in the first period," said Sullivan, who put the Predators up 1-0 with a backhander from the slot 5:04 into the game. "I think we just took a little bit of a lull there in the beginning of the second period and they took advantage of it. They're the kind of system that they create chances off your mistakes. They're not going to really create their own chances. And that's what happened. We just got a little sloppy in the neutral zone and they were able to counter on us. But once we started to get pucks deep, they didn't get very much after that."
"We talked about two things we got away from in the second period," Trotz said. "We weren't shooting the puck. We were getting to those tough areas but we weren't shooting the puck. And we talked about continuing to drive the middle. They keep you to the outside so you've got to force yourself inside of them all the time. We did that much better after we scored the power-play goal and we sort of continued that right through the third period. I thought we had numerous opportunities."
With New Jersey's Zach Parise in the penalty box for hooking midway through the third, Nashville's Adam Hall sent a pass from the left face-off dot to Martin Erat at the right face-off dot for a shot that beat Brodeur to the near side of the net. The goal, Erat's 12th of the season, came on the man advantage at 9:57 and capped the comeback. The 3-3 deadlock lasted through the remainder of the third period as well as the five-minute, four-on-four overtime session.
In the shootout that followed, Kozlov was up first. He skated in on Vokoun and made a dramatic deke that lured Vokoun so far to the right that Kozlov merely backhanded the puck into an empty net. "That was a nice move," Vokoun confessed. "He just made a nice move and he scored. Obviously you hate it as a goalie, but that's just the way it went."
Sullivan followed Kozlov with his chance against Brodeur and was stopped on a deke to his backhand. Elias was stopped by Vokoun at the other end, then Kariya missed the net on his attempt. Gionta ended the game when he scored with the popular deke to the backhand.
"We just have to score, and obviously [Sullivan] and I didn't do that tonight," Kariya said. Vokoun, meanwhile indicated that the recent stretch of 12 games in 20 nights has hampered his preparation for the shootout, which was implemented at the beginning of this season to prevent any game from ending in a tie.
"It's kind of hard because we basically are not practicing right now," Vokoun said. "We're playing every day and you can't really practice it. Shootouts, at least for me, I've got to be used to breakaways and be doing that in the practice. We haven't had the time. We play all the time and when we practice we're out there for a little bit and we leave because we play so many games. Like I said, they're sometimes funny. You feel good when you win them. You don't feel so good when you lose them. That's just the way shootouts are."
The Predators, who wrapped up inter-conference play Thursday, will return to the familiar Central Division on Saturday to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tickets are still available for that game, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. To order, call (615) 770-PUCK, order online or visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster outlet. The game will be broadcast on 104.5 FM The Zone.
Notes: Eight different Predators registered a point against New Jersey Thursday... Nashville now has a record of 6-10-2 when trailing after two periods... The Predators scored twice on the power play Thursday and now have power-play goals in four straight games (six for 16 over the four games). The Predators went two for three with the man advantage. New Jersey was two for two... Steve Sullivan, who scored the opening goal, extended his points streak to six games (5g-3a-8pts)... Paul Kariya assisted on Kimmo Timonen's goal and now has points in five straight games (1g-5a-6pts)... Yanic Perreault, who also assisted on Timonen's goal, extended his points streak to six games (4g-4a-8pts). He also logged a season-high 18:42 of ice time... Martin Erat, who scored to tie the game in the third period, now has goals in three consecutive games (4g in that span). He was named the game's 1st Star Thursday... Scott Walker posted an assist on Erat's goal and the Predators are now 10-0-3 when Walker is in the lineup... Marek Zidlicky assisted on Sullivan's opening goal and now has 29 points in his last 31 games... The Devils outshot the Predators 34-32, bumping Nashville's record to 15-8-6 when outshot by an opponent... Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun turned away 31 of the Devils' 34 shots; Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of 32 Nashville shots... Nashville dominated the face-off circle against New Jersey, winning 68 percent of the draws. Greg Johnson led the Predators with 11 wins and three losses (78 percent)... Nashville completed its season schedule against Eastern Conference teams Thursday and went 4-3-3 against the East in 2005-06... Scott Nichol and Jamie Allison were scratches from Nashville's lineup Thursday... Attendance at the GEC was 12,299.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:11)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz' post-game press conference (6:21)
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