With two goals 12 seconds apart in the final minute, the Florida Panthers changed the face of their game against the Nashville Predators quickly.
Holding a two-goal advantage and seconds away from notching his second shutout of the season, Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne had to quickly refocus in extra time after the Panthers tied the contest late. Going a perfect four-for-four in the shootout was enough for Rinne to hand Nashville back the win it appeared they were so close to registering minutes before.
The Preds won 3-2 thanks to Filip Forsberg’s goal in the breakaway competition.
“I was still pretty upset with the goals when we started [overtime],” Rinne said. “It’s a 1-0 game for a good portion of the game and then we score the second goal, but eventually they get those two quick goals and [mentally] I was pretty frustrated. The second goal they just threw the puck at the net and it ended up going off my arm. It was pretty unlucky. But we stuck with it and it was a big goal by Forsberg in the shootout for us.”
For a Preds team that won two of 11 shootouts in 2013-14, claiming the second point after 65 minutes of play wasn’t a given for Nashville, especially after the dramatic way they reached it.
Four stops from Rinne and a goal from Forsberg, however, and the Preds claimed their second victory in three trips to the shootout this season.
“It’s a big win; it can really put your team down when regulation ends like that,” Rinne said. “In the [shootout], you have to just focus on one guy at a time and try to stay patient. I feel like over the years guys have gotten so much better in shootouts, they have so many different moves now. You have to try and out wait them mainly. I got fortunate today to stop all four of them. And eventually Forsberg scored that big goal.”
“Most Consistent Game”:
Despite blowing a two-goal lead in the final minute of regulation, Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette called Saturday’s win his team’s “most consistent game.”
“I’d have to go back and look at the final minute again. But I’m not sure necessarily that things went wrong,” Laviolette said. “We had guys in position and [Florida] got a rebound off the back door and then they got a redirect off of something and it caromed into the net. I’m going to look at this game as 100 percent positive.
“I’ll be in here sometimes when we win and not so happy, and I’ll be in here when we lose and I’m going to really love the way we played. I’m always going to focus on the process of how we played the game and tonight, I thought the guys were dead on with what they were trying to do on that ice. I think it was one of our most consistent efforts.”
The first-year coach in Nashville has focused on the effort-level and focus brought from his team each game - not always dependent on the final score - and the aforementioned methodology rang true again on Saturday.
Nashville center Matt Cullen echoed his coach’s sentiments on the effective game by the Preds.
“I think we were very pleased with the effort we put out tonight from top to bottom,” Cullen said. “I think we played a really solid game. We talked a lot about our work ethic and that was really high tonight. Sometimes you just run into a hot goaltender and we’ve been the beneficiary of that many times and Luongo was great. When you put up 50 shots you usually win the game and we ultimately did but you give him a lot credit.”
Though it required more than 65 minutes and a shootout, the Preds “team victory” got them back in the win column after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Ottawa. Nashville is yet to lose two-consecutive games.
“It’s not what you’re looking for at the end of the game, you’d like to be done with it in regulation, but those things happen sometimes,” Cullen said. “A couple quick goals for them and all of a sudden we find ourselves in overtime. The way that we played throughout the entire night though, it was easy for us to keep going with what we were doing and get the win.”
50 Shots for Nashville:
With 50 shots on Florida’s net Saturday, the Preds easily surpassed their previous season-high of 37 recorded on Tuesday at Toronto.
Laviolette said prior to the contest with the Panthers that he wanted his team to come out strong against an opponent that could be overlooked. Florida had won contests against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks earlier in the week.
Peppering Luongo with 12 or more shots in each period (including 19 in the middle frame) Nashville consistently attacked one of the game’s top netminders.
“I think it’s always the strategy, but it’s tough to do that with the way teams play defense these days,” Laviolette said of putting a lot of shots on Luongo. “You’ve got to give Florida credit for the way they defended. I thought we played a great first period, but our scoring chances were low. We had lots of attempts at the net, but we had a real hard time getting to the middle of the ice.”
Both Rinne and Luongo kept the contest scoreless until the final two minutes of the second period when Preds forward Colin Wilson scored from beneath the goal line. After the contest, Rinne was quick to compliment the talent of the Panthers goalie.
“He was on the top of his game tonight, for sure he gave them a chance and one point; I think they have to thank him for that point,” Rinne said of Luongo. “He has so much experience, I think with active goalies he’s the leader in games and wins and all the main stats. He’s had an unbelievable career and he’s still on top of his game.”