Photo by John Russell
Nashville's Scott Nichol took on the much bigger Bryan Marchment in a fight midway through the first period.
After battling neck-and-neck to a 4-4 tie, the Nashville Predators pulled away from the Calgary Flames with three goals in the latter half of the second period en route to a 9-4 victory Saturday night at a sold-out Gaylord Entertainment Center. Mike Sillinger posted four assists and a trio of Predators collected three points each in the wild affair, which included two fights, lots of scrums and a deliberate attempt to injure penalty against Calgary's Chris Simon that was ultimately the turning point in the game.
Paul Kariya scored his second goal of the night on the resulting five-minute power play to put Nashville up 6-4. Up until that point, the power play had kept the Flames in the contest--accounting for all four of their goals--but Kariya's tally snapped the back-and-forth scoring and the Predators went on to light the lamp three more times to secure their 40th win of the season.
"We've talked about expect the unexpected a little bit." said Predators head coach Barry Trotz, whose team has now won its last three games. "We've always had a 2-1, 3-2 sort of game with Calgary. Obviously that's not really what happened [Saturday night]. It was sort of whoever would get the last power play would win the game, it seemed like."
The action was non-stop from the drop of the puck. Steve Sullivan put Nashville on the board just 46 seconds into the match, after defenseman Dan Hamhuis went wide around Calgary's Jordan Leopold along the left wall and whipped a pass across the slot to Sullivan. Sullivan had Flames goaltender Brian Boucher dead to rights and scored easily to put the Predators up 1-0 early.
Kariya extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:42 as Nashville skated on its first power play of the night. With Boucher well beyond his crease to stop Mike Sillinger's chance from the left side, David Legwand was unable to get a good poke at the rebound. But Boucher never corraled the puck and it ultimately squirted to the right side of the crease, where Kariya's keen anticipation skills paid off. Nashville's leading scorer had swooped in from the right face-off circle hunting for a possible loose puck. He found it at the feet of Calgary blueliner Robyn Regehr and knocked it into the open goal mouth to give Nashville a two-goal cushion.
But four power plays for Calgary before the first intermission yielded goals by Dion Phaneuf at 7:57 and Darren McCarty at 19:51, and from there the contest evolved into an offensive horse race.
"We got out to a quick start, scored a couple quick goals," Sillinger said. "They responded well. We fell into penalty trouble and they got a couple quick ones on the power play. They scored late in the first period and we knew we were in a hockey game."
Meanwhile, the storied friction between the teams was creating sparks. Darcy Hordichuk and Chris Simon were each sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct at 9:40 of the first. At 12:02, Hordichuk took a swat at Boucher's trapper after the goalie had made a glove save on a shot by Scott Nichol. Linesmen stepped in behind the goal to hamper the Flames' efforts to get at Hordichuk, but out front Nichol and Bryan Marchment dropped the gloves. Nichol, giving up considerable size and weight to Marchment, fared well in the scrap and landed one last solid blow before the two crashed to the ice.
Photo by John Russell
Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk is restrained by Bryan Marchment and goalie Brian Boucher.
"We knew what they were going to do. They play Sutter-style hockey," Nichol said, referring to Flames coach Darryl Sutter. "It's no secret. They come hard at you. They bang you. We knew that. I think it's around the league that we don't have an overly big team, but you know, we compete and we win those battles on the wall. We've been doing really well that way. We've just got to keep going and keep winning those battles. I don't think it matters how big you are."
Nichol would provide a spark of a different sort early in the second period, when he kept the puck on a two-on-one with Hordichuk and wired a shot high over the shoulder of Boucher from the right circle. The goal, Nichol's first as a Predator, gave Nashville the lead at 3:24.
Seconds later, play was stopped as Hordichuk and McCarty squared off in the Flames' zone. Hordichuk was the clear winner of that bout, putting McCarty hard to the ice after popping the Calgary forward's helmet off with several punches. In addition to matching five-minute majors for the combatants, Hordichuk was tagged with a minor penalty for interference that put the Flames back on the power play. It took just over 30 seconds for the visitors to convert, getting a goal by Kristian Huselius at 4:23 to knot the game at 3-3.
A beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play between Ryan Suter, Legwand and Martin Erat put Nashville back on top 28 seconds later. Suter's backhand pass from above the right circle set up Legwand and Erat on a two-on-one down low. Legwand received the pass in the left circle and drew all of Calgary's attention as he closed in on the goal. He then slipped the puck back across the slot to Erat for a quick snap into the vacated right side of the net at 4:51.
Again, the lead didn't hold for long, as a penalty to Marek Zidlicky for tripping put Nashville down a man and on the wrong side of the puck when Phaneuf emerged from his own stint in the box. Daymond Langkow's pass sent the rookie defenseman in alone on Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who dropped to his side and stacked his pads in a bid to make the stop. Vokoun got a big piece of Phaneuf's shot, but the puck trickled through the Predators goaltender and slowly crossed the goal line to tie the game at 4-4 8:52 into the second period.
The seesaw scoring continued at 11:46, when Greg Johnson took a nifty feed from Steve Sullivan and beat Boucher, who was caught out of position for the sharp-angled shot from the right side. Two and a half minutes later, Hordichuk was again the center of Calgary's attention after bumping with several Flames. On his way to the bench for a line change, Hordichuk encountered Simon. The Nashville winger threw a little head fake toward Simon, who then reacted by checking Hordichuk in the face with his stick. The action ended Simon's night, as he was sent off with a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure at 14:12.
"He recognized that Simon wanted to get something involved with him," Trotz said of Hordichuk, who didn't miss a shift. "Obviously Simon did it and he got called on it. That was a real big turning point. I give a lot of credit to Darcy. He is a player that continues to be very, very effective."
Midway through the resulting five-minute power play, Nashville regained a two-goal lead on Kariya's second goal of the game. The play developed after Sillinger and Legwand--in tight quarters at the right point--were able to keep the puck in the zone and created some space for themselves. Moving forward, Legwand tapped the puck out from the right boards to Sillinger just a few feet to his left. Sillinger then spotted Kariya alone below the left hashmarks and zipped a pass to him for a clever redirection past Boucher at 16:34.
Photo by John Russell
Predators defenseman Kimmo Timonen is congratulated by Martin Erat for his point blast that made it 7-4 at 19:15 of the second period.
As the major penalty continued, a too many men on the ice penalty against the Flames put them down two men for 1:13. Three seconds after the five-on-three power play expired, but before Jamie Lundmark--who served Simon's penalty--could rejoin the play, Predators defenseman Kimmo Timonen rifled a right-point shot that made its way through traffic and into the net. The goal, Timonen's ninth of the season, put Nashville up 7-4 at 19:15 of the second period.
Buoyed by the three-goal lead, Nashville carried play in the third and nearly added to its cushion on foiled breakaway attempts by Sullivan and Legwand in the first half of the closing period. But a diving swat at a loose puck by Tootoo at 13:10 did find the back of the net to give the Predators their eighth goal of the game, and Hordichuk capped off the scoring with his second tally in as many games when he picked up a rebound and lifted it past Boucher at 17:44. The nine-goal outburst set a franchise record for the number of goals scored in a home game.
"I think it was an entertaining hockey game for the fans," said Vokoun, who faced on 27 shots compared to the 47 taken by the Predators. "You've got to love it being here tonight, seeing 13 goals in the hockey game. It's pretty unusual."
"I think it was just a matter of getting the puck to the net," Sillinger said. "We knew that [for] Boucher, it was his second game in a long time. So we knew that if we threw a little rubber at him we might be able to get a few."
Boucher, making his second appearance for Calgary since being acquired on Feb. 1, received sympathy from Vokoun. "He's a guy that doesn't play much," Vokoun said. "When he plays they give him such a bad game. I've been on that side too, so I know how hard it is. You definitely as a goaltender feel bad for the other guy."
"I thought he played pretty good actually," Sillinger said of Boucher. "It was just the rebounds. A lot of our goals were rebounds. We drove the net really well. That was our game plan...to put pucks at the net and drive the net. We were finding the rebounds."
Trotz praised his club's effort, even downplaying the four power-play goals Calgary scored on nine opportunities. "That's going to happen once in a while," Trotz said. "Our penalty kill has been pretty solid all year. You're going to have a game where some pucks find the back of the net. And tonight they did. I think we got three [power play goals], they got four. So we're minus one in that total. But I think we were plus six in the five-on-five.
"When you come to grips with how you have to play to beat a team, most times you're going to be very successful," he added. "I thought we came to grips and said, 'Hey, this is going to be a real tough game and we've got to do certain things.' I thought we stayed to the game plan and we accomplished what we wanted to do."
Notes: The Nashville Predators set new franchise records for most goals scored at home, with nine (previous record was seven, accomplished three times), and most goals scored by both teams at home, with 13 (previous record was 11, accomplished twice). The nine-goal output tied the franchise record for most goals in a game (Nashville scored nine in a 9-4 win in Pittsburgh on 3/4/04)... Nashville's season record now stands at 40-19-8 (extending the franchise record for wins), with a home record of 26-6-1 (also extending the franchise record for home wins)... Mike Sillinger posted four assists for his first multi-point game since being acquired by the Predators on Jan. 29. He now has five assists in his last two games and nine points (1g-8a) in the nine games since the Olympic break... Tomas Vokoun is 6-0-2 in his last eight games with three straight wins and only four goals against in those three games. His 34-14-7 record places him second among NHL goaltenders in wins and ties his career high in that category... Paul Kariya posted two goals and an assist to extend his team-leading point total to 67 (24g-43a) in as many games. Both goals Saturday came on the power play, pushing his power-play goal total to 11--one shy of team leader Steve Sullivan. Kariya continues to lead the team in power-play points with 36 (11g-25a)... David Legwand registered three assists for his first three-point game of the season. The Predators are now 24-6-5 with him in the lineup this season... After collecting just one point in his previous eight games, Martin Erat notched a goal and two assists for his second three-point game of the season... The Predators tallied three power-play goals against the Flames. That marks the eighth time this season the team has scored three or more power-play goals in a game, though it was the first time since Jan. 28 in Columbus... Steve Sullivan scored a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to six games. He has amassed 12 points (3g-9a) in those six games. He also posted a +3 rating for the game... Dan Hamhuis posted two assists, giving him two multi-point performances in his last three games. He also finished Saturday's game with a +3 rating... Ryan Suter pocketed two assists for his third multi-point game of the season and was a +3 for the game... Kimmo Timonen scored a power-play goal, his sixth of the year, and is ranked sixth among NHL defensemen in power-play scoring with 32 points (6g-26a)... Scott Hartnell registered an assist to push his assist streak to three games. He has three assists in that span... Marek Zidlicky assisted on Kimmo Timonen's power-play goal and now has four assists in his last four games... Jordin Tootoo scored his third goal of the season and extended his point streak to three games. He has three points (2g-1a) in that span... The Predators are 6-0-2 in their last eight games. They have gone 3-0-0 in their last three contests, scoring 16 goals while allowing four... Darcy Hordichuk scored a goal for his second tally in as many games. He also registered a fighting major and leads the team in major penalties with eight... Scott Nichol, who posted his first goal and second point as a Predator Saturday, has a fighting major in each of his last three games and a total of 33 penalty minutes in that span... Nashville is 25-0-4 when leading after two periods, and 20-9-6 when scoring first... Mike Sillinger and Steve Sullivan each registered a game-high seven shots vs. Calgary. Dan Hamhuis followed with five and Martin Erat had four. Nashville's 47 shots were the second most this season. (The Predators posted 48 against Columbus on Jan. 21)... Shea Weber, who posted a +1 rating Saturday, is a +6 over his last six games... The Predators are 12-6-1 against Northwest Division teams... Calgary's Chris Simon became only the seventh player to receive a match penalty this season. Per league rules, he is suspended indefinitely pending review by the Commissioner... Scratches for Nashville were Vern Fiddler and Scottie Upshall... Attendance at the Gaylord Entertainment Center was 17,113, marking the Predators' ninth sellout of the season.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:47)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz's post-game press conference (8:08)
Official Super Stats