Preds forward Mike Ribeiro sent Smith in on a breakaway for the game-ending score and the center’s third assist of the evening. Nashville answered a one-goal deficit early in the first period and responded to Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden tying the game with under a minute left and the teams skating 6-on-5.
“We had a good response,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of his team’s comeback. “It certainly wasn’t what we wanted to do at the end of the game, but I thought our guys played really hard in the second and third period. I like how we scored early in the third period and continued to press for the entire time.”
Playing for the first time in a week due to the NHL All-Star Break, the Predators started slowly in the opening period, but tied the contest and then took a 2-1 lead with two-straight scores from Roman Josi and Colin Wilson in the second stanza.
“If we were going to be slow somewhere, it would probably be at the start,” Laviolette said. “I really liked our energy [in the second and third periods]. That can sometimes dip when you get away for seven or eight days. You might come out hard at first, but it might kind of diminish a bit as the game goes on, so I thought as the game went on we really started to step on the gas.”
“I think we had a chance to shoot more in the first period, but we didn’t,” Ribeiro said. “In the second we started focusing on shooting more and pressing their D. I think once we started shooting from everywhere, you could feel the momentum change.”
Holden’s fourth goal of the season evened the game at 3-3 with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. Wilson said losing the lead late didn’t rattle the home team, however.
“It just goes back to the confidence we have in each other and the way we keep finding ways to win,” said Wilson. “Obviously we don’t want to give up that late goal, we’d rather win it in regulation, but the fact we keep responding after moments like that is big… We’re finding ways to get it done in OT, and it shows how much our team wants to win.”
A Trio for Ribeiro:
The Predators main weapon on offense Tuesday night wasn’t a very well kept secret. Forward Mike Ribeiro dished out three assists against the Avs, and his final pass of the night was the most impressive.
Out of the defensive zone, the center fed Smith at center ice to spring his linemate on a breakaway that ended the game. Smith rifled the puck under Semyon Varlamov’s arm for the game-winning score in OT.
“I think in overtime, we just tried to be patient,” Smith said. “We were scrambling a little bit to hang on to the puck and make a tape-to-tape pass, but [Ribeiro] got his head up and made a nice saucer pass to the middle.”
“He can settle the puck, he can settle the play,” Laviolette said of Ribeiro. “He can bang somebody off, three or four feet by really just twitching an ear, or something. And all of a sudden, there is some time and space and he can make a play. I thought he had a sharp game with the puck tonight.”
The trio of assists marked Ribeiro’s third, three-point game of the season and the second time he’s had three helpers in a contest.
“I don’t even know how he does it sometimes,” forward Filip Forsberg said of Ribeiro. “You saw the last pass he made to Smith there, it was just a saucer right on the tape, game-winner right there. That’s the stuff he does all the time and it’s awesome for us.”
Now the Preds leading scorer with 42 points in 46 games gone in the campaign, the veteran brought in at a bargain price this offseason has well-exceeded expectations set in the summer. Nashville D-man Roman Josi said it’s been incredible to watch how quickly and effectively Ribeiro has acclimated to the Predators.
“He’s been awesome,” Josi said. “He came into camp with a great work ethic. He’s worked hard every day and on the ice you can see what’s he’s been able to do. He’s been great on the power play and just a really skilled player on and off the ice.”
Superlatives are quickly running short to describe the Predators dominant run at Bridgestone Arena. The OT victory against Colorado was Nashville’s eighth-consecutive win on home ice, which tied a franchise record.
The Preds also won seven-straight during another stretch at home earlier in the season and are a NHL-best 19-2-1 at home.
“That’s nice in front of our fans,” Laviolette said. “It’s great to have a good record at home. And we have got to continue to push. Our guys have done a good job here in our building. The fans were terrific again tonight, and it was an entertaining game for them. Lots of chances, lots of goals, lots of opportunities and a win at the end. We’re enjoying it, they’re enjoying it; it’s a good match right now.”
In his first year experiencing the advantage afforded to Nashville when playing in the Music City, Ribeiro complimented Preds fans for their consistent support.
“It’s been great playing [at Bridgestone Arena],” Ribeiro said. “Tonight we had some shifts where we didn’t score but we had some good pressure in the offensive zone and the fans were just cheering between whistles. I think it’s good, it’s good to play well at home. You need a good record here, but it’s the second half of the season now and it’s going to get even tougher to win games.”
The home team’s fans responded to strong play from the Predators in the second period by giving a standing ovation and cheering for an entire TV timeout. After a slow start in the opening frame, Nashville fired 14 shots on the Avs’ net in the second and tallied twice to emerge with a tie at the intermission.
“We like playing in this building, we hold a high standard,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun to win in this building. I don’t think anybody in here wants to lose right now.”
The Predators improved their record to 13-1-2 when tied after 40 minutes of play and notched their 20th one-goal win of the year.
Tuesday’s contest was Nashville’s second of the season against Colorado; the two teams will meet again on Friday in Denver.
The Preds have now scored 12 power play goals in their last 13 games. Nashville is 13-3-2 in the Central Division.
The Predators play twice more within the division this week, Thursday night in St. Louis and then Friday against the Avalanche. Nashville is five points ahead of the Blues for the Central Division lead.