Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty
Martin Erat scores the game-deciding goal against New Jersey's Scott Clemmensen during Thursday night's shootout.
Forward Martin Erat scored the lone shootout goal and netminder Chris Mason stymied all three shooters he faced as the Nashville Predators topped the New Jersey Devils 4-3 Thursday night in Continental Airlines Arena. The Predators, who have now won four games in a row and took all six possible points from a three-game road trip to the New York Metro area, came away with the victory despite giving up a two-goal lead late in regulation.
Nashville's penalty killers, who have been remarkable over the past several games, secured the final win of the three-game road sweep by defusing a Devils four-on-three power play during overtime. For the second time on the trip, Nashville went to the tie-breaking shootout and came away victorious. The Predators, who beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in a shootout Monday, now move above .500 for the first time this season. Their record stands at 4-3-0.
"It was good to go 3-0 in New York," Predators associate coach Brent Peterson said. "We found a way to blow a lead but we came back and killed a big penalty off in overtime. Then Mason was a standout in the shootout. He stopped all three of their top guys."
Nashville's Marek Zidlicky and Paul Kariya and New Jersey's Zach Parise and Brian Gionta had each failed to convert on his chance when Erat stepped onto the ice to begin Round 3 of the shootout. The 24-year-old winger skated in, delivered a couple of head fakes and then beat goaltender Scott Clemmensen to the upper right corner with a shot from just inside the hashmarks. That put the pressure on Patrik Elias, who had to score to keep his club alive. The Devils' All-Star winger overskated the puck on his approach then hastily fired a shot that Mason stopped with his right arm. Mason and fellow Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun have yet to allow a shootout goal this season, besting a total of five shooters.
"So far so good," Peterson said. "We're 2-0 in the shootout. That gives you points you desperately need."
The game got off to a fast start, with the teams combining for a flurry of power-play goals in the opening 6:15 of play. The Predators sandwiched two of those tallies around one for the Devils. Paul Kariya set up both Nashville goals from the right side, first feeding Jason Arnott in the slot for a lightning fast one-timer at 2:10, then centering to Martin Erat for a nifty redirection through Clemmensen's legs at 6:15. Gionta scored New Jersey's lone first-period goal at the 4:01 mark following a setup from Elias and Scott Gomez that rendered Mason helpless to defend against the shot.
Nashville's next goal came on special teams as well, though this time it was the penalty killing unit that would score its second short-handed marker of the season. Down one man, the Predators won a draw in the offensive zone and got the puck back to defenseman Ryan Suter at the point. His shot deflected off Scott Nichol in front and skipped past Clemmensen for a 3-1 lead at 17:02 of the second. The goal was Nichol's second in as many nights. Apart from the goal, the middle frame and much of the third were fairly dull--often a desirable trait from the perspective of a road team. But the Predators were unable to keep a lid on the Devils for the full 60 minutes.
Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty
Chris Mason stopped 30 of 33 shots in regulation and blanked three players in the shootout for his first win of the season.
"We were good until we had a power play with about eight minutes to go and then we just sat back and tried to kill the time," Peterson said of his team's late-game letdown. "They came with speed and they stormed us for the last five minutes. We hung in there for a while but they got two quick ones."
Gomez started the rally by stuffing a rebound under Mason at 17:53. Less than two minutes later, with Clemmensen on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Elias connected with Gionta once again and New Jersey tied the game at 3-3 with just 11.6 seconds showing on the clock.
A penalty to defenseman Ryan Suter 2:48 into the four-on-four overtime put the Predators penalty killers to the test again. The PK units, who entered Thursday's game having killed 12 straight disadvantages and had survived a brief five-on-three during the second period, prevented the Devils' power play--ranked third overall at home--from winning the game. For the night, Nashville killed off five of six power plays while its own power play, which has struggled to get on track, showed some spark going two for five.
"[The power play] was good tonight," Peterson said. "It scored on the first two chances and moved the puck and shot and scored. It did a real good job. That was good to see."
The win came without leading scorer Steve Sullivan, who was sidelined with back spasms. That left the Predators with only 11 forwards for the game--less than the four full lines the team usually deploys. The shortage had no negative effect on the club, according to Peterson.
"Everybody sort of picked up the slack," he said. "[Head coach Barry Trotz] moved the lines around and everybody got to play and everybody contributed. It was a good effort by everybody for about about 55 minutes. It was pretty solid and then we sort of just had a brain cramp and sat back. We were really good for a long time.
"It all worked out in the end, but we've got to be better with the lead."
Next the Predators return home to face the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online, by calling 615-770-PUCK, or by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet or the GEC box office. Country music star Billy Ray Cyrus will sing the national anthem at the game and will host a mullet competition during the second period. (Registration will take place in the concourse outside Section 107, with the qualifiers taking part in the contest during the third TV timeout of the second period.) The winner will receive an autographed Billy Ray Cyrus guitar and $250.
NOTES: Predators captain Kimmo Timonen skated in his 500th career game Thursday and registered an assist in the shootout win. He ranks second on the franchise list for games played as a Predator, and will match the leader, Greg Johnson, with just two more games... With his goal Thursday, forward Jason Arnott has goals in two straight games and points in five of his last six... With his shootout goal against New Jersey, Martin Erat is a perfect three-for-three in shootouts for his career. All three of his goals have been game-deciding goals. Erat also added a goal and an assist in regulation for his second multi-point game of the season... Making his second appearance of the season, goaltender Chris Mason stopped 30 of 33 shots during regulation and all three shots he faced in the shootout for his first win of 2006-07. Mason has yet to yield a shootout goal in his career--a perfect eight-for-eight. He is 3-0 in shootouts... Nashville's penalty killers, tied for second in the league with two short-handed goals, have killed 23 of the last 25 power-play chances they've faced... Darcy Hordichuk, Steve Sullivan, Greg Zanon and Josef Vasicek were lineup scratches for Nashville.