The Nashville Predators carried a two-goal lead into the third period Saturday afternoon at Los Angeles' Staples Center, but the Kings stormed back in the third to tie the game before winning it 3-2 on a controversial shootout goal by Jeremy Roenick. The shootout loss extends Nashville's winless streak to five games but gives the Predators a point in the standings, moving their record to 8-2-3.
"We'll take any points we can get on the road," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. "Obviously, a strange happening at the end there. I give full marks to the group. We're a little shorthanded and they battled through a very tough L.A. team."
The Predators were without regulars Steve Sullivan, Adam Hall and Scott Walker due to injuries. Additionally, center Scott Nichol didn't play in the second or third periods after taking a slapshot on the foot in the first.
Early tallies by Jeremy Stevenson and Martin Erat gave the Predators a two-goal cushion 8:30 into the game. Stevenson's goal, which came at 1:34, was generated when center Greg Johnson carried the puck behind the net from the right side. As Stevenson charged toward the right goal post, Johnson centered the puck and it was redirected past Kings goaltender Jason Labarbera by Stevenson's sliding skate.
The Predators failed to convert on a power play minutes later, but were lifted by Erat's goal shortly thereafter. A blocked shot in the Predators defensive zone was retrieved by Nichol and forwarded to Darcy Hordichuk who carried it up the left side of the ice. Erat came streaking up the right wing, tapping his stick to call for the puck, and he received a nice pass from Hordichuk. Erat then broke toward the net and fired a shot high to the right corner that beat Labarbera for the 2-0 lead.
The Predators' penalty killers nullified a Kings five-on-three power play opportunity in each of the first two periods to preserve the margin. "We got a good performance, I thought, from Tomas Vokoun tonight and I thought Mark Eaton was outstanding, as was Greg Johnson on the penalty kill," Trotz said. "In the area of the penalty kill, we were missing Walker, Sullivan, Nichol who got hurt in the first period and Adam Hall. Those are four of our six penalty killers so we used a lot of people in that area and they did a real good job."
On the other side of the coin, Nashville was unable to capitalize on a five-minute power play awarded when L.A. forward Sean Avery was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for checking Simon Gamache from behind late in the first period. Hordichuk had a word with Avery following the illegal hit, and the Predators did an admirable job of matching the very physical Kings.
"That's been L.A.'s M.O., that they've tried to come out and try to knock us out of the rink," Trotz said. "I thought we responded very well. We took a five minute major on Gamache, and Hordichuk and those other guys got involved. I'm very happy with the way we responded that way."
Through two periods, the Predators outshot the the Kings 16 to 15. But Los Angeles poured it on in the third, cutting Nashville's lead in half at the 1:01 mark and going on to outshoot the Predators 21 to two in the final 20 minutes of regulation. The Kings' stranglehold on the momentum was assisted by three straight Nashville penalties, which the Preds again successfully killed. But less than one minute after the final Predators penalty expired, Los Angeles knotted the game on a goal by Nathan Dempsey. A Roenick shot from the point missed wide right and rebounded to Dempsey alone in front of the net. His one-timer past Nashville goaltender Vokoun evened the game at 2-2 with 4:26 remaining.
When no winner was decided after 60 minutes, the game moved to an overtime period that featured notable saves by Vokoun and a failed penalty shot attempt by David Legwand. Despite the chances, neither team could win the game during the five minutes of four-on-four play.
In the shootout that followed, Nashville's Gamache and Marek Zidlicky were stopped by Labarbera while Demitra converted against Vokoun. That set the table for Roenick to win the game with a goal on his chance. He skated in, deked and put a shot into the outstretched left pad of the Predators goalie. Roenick's follow through forced the puck--as well as Vokoun--into the net.
"It wasn't a goal, because it was a rebound," said Trotz. Shooters are allowed one shot and cannot follow up on rebounds. "But the referee made the call that it was in, and it's not a reviewable situation."
Next up for the Predators is a home match against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. It's the first of a four-date homestand for Nashville. Game time Tuesday is 7 p.m. CST. The game will not be televised but will be broadcast locally on WGFX-104.5 FM The Zone. Tickets are still available and start at just $10. To order, call (615) 770-PUCK, purchase online, or visit any Ticketmaster location.
Notes: Martin Erat's goal Saturday gives him four goals in his last six games... The Predators have scored the game's first goal within the first four minutes of play in each of their last four games. The Predators have allowed the first goal five times this season and are 4-0-1 in those games... The Predators' shootout loss to L.A. was the first for Nashville (now 3-1) and the first for Tomas Vokoun (2-1). Vokoun allowed his first shootout goals of the season Saturday to Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick. None of the five shooters he had faced in two previous shootouts scored against him... Nashville was 0 for 5 on the power play; L.A. was 0 for 8... The Predators' 2002 first-round draft pick Scottie Upshall registered his first point of the 2005-06 season as a Predator. He was recalled from AHL affiliate Milwaukee on Oct. 31. His assist Saturday on Jeremy Stevenson's goal is his second NHL assist and his third NHL point... Saturday's game was the first time in eight contests that the Predators did not yield a power play goal... Head Coach Barry Trotz elaborated on the non-reviewable status of Roenick's shootout-winning goal: "That's probably a loophole that the Competition Committee and the National Hockey League will probably look at and try to review on Monday and maybe make an amendment to it. [The shootout is] a new process in our game and there are certain situations that come up. You can't think of everything. I'm sure we'll correct that"... Attendance at the Staples Center Saturday was 17,556.