Photo by John Russell
Defenseman Shea Weber posted two assists in Nashville's 3-2 win over Calgary Saturday.
The Nashville Predators twice built a two-goal lead Saturday night in Calgary then held on against a late-game assault to defeat the Flames 3-2. Predators center Jason Arnott scored twice, including the game-winner, while defenseman Shea Weber and forward Martin Erat registered two assists each.
After outshooting Calgary 30-16 through two periods and leading 2-0, Nashville saw the tables turned in the third by a home side that peppered goaltender Tomas Vokoun with 11 shots to the Predators' five. Vokoun stopped nine of those 11 and Arnott tallied his second of the night to give the Predators the one-goal cushion they needed for their second straight win.
Nashville now has points in seven straight games (6-0-1) and remains tied with Detroit atop the Central Division standings.
The Predators opened the scoring with 13 seconds remaining in the first period. The trio of David Legwand, J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan--the latter playing in his first game after missing three with back spasms--sustained strong pressure in the Calgary zone. A shot attempt by Legwand was tipped by a defender's stick, sending the puck trickling through the slot toward the left circle. Sullivan corraled the puck, spun and delivered a backhand pass to Dumont in one motion. Dumont, alone in front of Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, chipped the puck through the netminder to make it 1-0 going into the first intermission.
Nashville doubled its lead during a power play midway through the second period, after Weber's shot from above the circles in the offensive zone was deadened by a Flames player's skate and rifled on net by an opportunistic Jason Arnott. His quick-release slapper from the top of the left circle beat Kiprusoff at 10:21 with Erat providing a screen in front. Scott Hartnell nearly made it 3-0 off a pass from Legwand two minutes later, but a fantastic pad stop by Kiprusoff robbed Hartnell.
Sullivan also had a stellar chance to expand the lead while the Predators were shorthanded early in the third period, but Kiprusoff's glove hand was up to the task of blocking then snaring Sullivan's high shot at the end of a 114-foot breakaway. The save was a momentum shifter, as Kiprusoff put the puck back into play and the Flames went the other direction to cut it to 2-1 at 3:23. Jarome Iginla got the power-play goal--from the spot of Dumont's first-period tally for Nashville--after knocking defenseman Kimmo Timonen off the puck in the corner and heading to the net for a pass from Kristian Huselius.
The Predators re-established a two-goal margin midway through the third, after Kariya and Erat broke up ice two against one. Kariya dumped the puck from the neutral zone to the right corner, and Erat used his speed to beat Calgary's defenseman to the puck. Erat sent the puck to the right point where Weber uncorked a shot that was deflected in front by Arnott, past Kiprusoff and into the net at 9:46.
The Flames made the finish much more interesting at 16:17 with a second goal by Iginla, after the Predators were unable to clear the puck from their zone despite a number of opportunties. Daymond Langkow stole an outlet pass from the stick of Sullivan, skated lower in the zone and backhanded the puck to the slot for Iginla. Iginla's shot beat Vokoun as he was crowded by Huselius and Timonen colliding to his left in the crease.
One of the most important of Vokoun's 25 saves came with 1:15 remaining, when he made a kick save on a tying bid by defenseman Mark Giordano. Calgary mounted plenty of last-minute pressure with Kiprusoff on the bench for an extra attacker, but the Predators defense and goaltender didn't yield and secured the 3-2 win.
The victory starts Nashville's four-game road trip on the right foot. The team now moves on to face Vancouver Tuesday and Edmonton Wednesday. The trip will conclude next Saturday in Minnesota.
NOTES: Defenseman and Predators captain Kimmo Timonen skated in his 503rd game with Nashville, setting a new franchise record. Timonen also led all Predators in ice time with 23:36... Martin Erat's two assists Saturday give him 100 for his career... Nashville won 59 percent of the face-offs in Saturday's game... Steve Sullivan returned to the lineup after missing three games with back spasms to play his 100th as a Predator. He recorded one assist, three shots, and one hit in 18:59 of ice time... Defenseman Greg Zanon and forward Josef Vasicek remain on injured reserve. Forward Darcy Hordichuk was scratched from the lineup... Attendance at the Pengrowth Saddledome was 19,289.