Photo by John Russell
The puck pinballs between Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and Nashville forward Martin Erat during Erat's shootout attempt Thursday night.
Though it was the most entertaining game of the Nashville Predators' season thus far, Thursday night's 7-6 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild at the Gaylord Entertainment Center cast a pall over the Predators' locker room. It didn't seem to matter that Nashville earned a point in the game and has now lost only once in regulation in the past 14 contests. Relinquishing a 6-3 second-period lead stung the Predators.
"When you're up 6-3, you've got to make sure you win the game," Predators captain Kimmo Timonen said.
"We did some good things offensively but I'm more concerned defensively," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz, who watched his team allow 33 shots in the final 45 minutes of play. On the offensive side of the ledger, Steve Sullivan posted a goal and two assists and J.P. Dumont had three helpers in the defeat, which moves Nashville's record to 11-4-2.
"You watch that game, it's a pretty exciting game from a fan standpoint and from a player standpoint," Trotz said. "It was wide open, 90 shots. It was exciting. We had enough chances to win. They had enough chances to win and they did. You had everything."
Indeed, the game not only featured 12 goals, an overtime period, and a shootout, but there was Paul Kariya's missed overtime penalty shot plus a lengthy video review of Martin Erat's potentially game-deciding shootout attempt to heighten the drama.
Though Erat's pinballing shootout puck ultimately crossed the goal line, it was ruled to have done so in violation of the rules. Wild relief goaltender Niklas Backstrom pokechecked the puck during Erat's approach, then the puck went off Erat's shinpad, the right goalpost, and the back of Backstrom before sliding over the line.
"At first I thought it just bounced back in," Trotz said of the play. "But I guess once the puck comes to a stop, either with the stick, a pad, the goalpost, the play is dead. Any break in momentum in the puck."
The shootout was tied 2-2 at that crucial point, and Minnesota secured the win in Round 4 once Brian Rolston scored through goalie Chris Mason's legs and Nashville's Josef Vasicek was stopped on his shot by Backstrom.
Photo by John Russell
After taking a stick to the face, Predators defenseman Shea Weber asks a linesman why no penalty was called.
Kariya, who converted on his shootout attempt along with Sullivan, had two superb chances to end the game late in overtime. With less than a minute remaining in the four-on-four session, Backstrom got enough of his glove on a Kariya breakaway shot to send it high out of play. Just 20 seconds later, David Legwand sprung Kariya for another breakaway. This time the dynamic forward was pulled down as he split defenders Kim Johnsson and Nick Schultz at the Minnesota blue line. Kariya was awarded a penalty shot with 37.2 showing on the clock. His one-on-one approach was more deliberate than usual and his wrist shot to the upper right corner had Backstrom beaten before it glanced off the top of the crossbar and sailed harmlessly over the goal.
The offensive fireworks started in the first period. Defensemen Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis scored in the final 2:22 of the opening frame to give the Predators a 3-1 lead at the first intermission. David Legwand opened the scoring with a fantastic goal off a forceful move around Wild defenseman Keith Carney at 8:09. Legwand protected the puck on his backhand as he carved in from the right circle, then switched to his forehand and fired the puck inside the left post once he had blown past Carney and starting goaltender Manny Fernandez. Seconds earlier, Mason had made back-to-back stops on Brent Burns and Pascal Dupuis to set up the rush that led to Legwand's tally.
Photo by John Russell
Nashville's Paul Kariya is hooked by Kim Johnsson while on a breakaway in overtime. Kariya was awarded a penalty shot on the play.
Nashville then went on its only power play of the first period, but ended up surrendering a short-handed goal on a Wes Walz breakaway at 9:54.
After a back-and-forth second period in which the teams combined for six goals, the Predators held a 6-4 lead heading into the third. Sullivan's goal at 16:05 of the second put Nashville ahead by three goals for a brief span, but Stephane Veilleux scored on a one-timer just over three minutes later to close the margin to two again.
Backstrom, who came on in relief of starter Manny Fernandez after Nashville's fifth goal, stopped all 14 Predators shots he faced in the third. Pavol Demitra scored a power-play goal at 5:26 of that period and Brent Burns scored at 11:39 to pull the Wild even by the end of regulation.
NOTES: Kimmo Timonen, Vern Fiddler and Steve Sullivan each scored for Nashville during the second period of Thursday night's game... Nashville is 11-1-2 in its last 14 games... The Wild have only allowed 3 goals or more in a game seven times this season. The Predators account for three of those seven instances, scoring 5, 4, and 6 goals in the first three meetings... Steve Sullivan (1g, 2a) has 8 points in the three games against Minnesota this season (3g, 5a)... David Legwand has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last two games... J.P. Dumont notched his first three-point game as a Predator and now has 1 goal and 3 assists in the past two contests... Paul Kariya has three assists in the last two games... Ryan Suter scored his fourth goal of the season, after having only one goal in 71 games during the 2005-06 season... With his goal Thursday, Kimmo Timonen now has points in three straight games (1g, 2a)... Vern Fiddler has scored goals in back-to-back games... Nashville is 5-1-2 against the Northwest Division... The Predators are 4-1-1 this November... Thirteen different Predators had points Thursday... Nashville is 2-1 in shootouts this season... Prior to Thursday's shootout, neither Nashville goaltender had allowed a shootout goal in five attempts against. Chris Mason had never allowed a shootout goal in his career, stopping eight shooters prior to Thursday's game... Steve Sullivan is 2-for-2 in shootout attempts this season. Paul Kariya is 2-for-3 and Martin Erat is 1-for-2... Mikko Lehtonen left the game early as the result of an elbow to the head by Pascal Dupuis in the third period. Defenseman Shea Weber also missed time in the third after being struck in the face with a high stick. No penalties resulted from the two incidents... Scottie Upshall, Darcy Hordichuk and Greg Zanon were scratches for Nashville.