Colin Blackwell and Mathieu Olivier each tallied twice as the Predators rookies came back to defeat the Washington Capitals prospects in the opening contest of the 2018 NHL Prospects Showcase.
Nashville entered the third frame down 3-2, but a pair from Olivier in the period, as well as Blackwell's second of the afternoon, gave the Preds all they needed to start the tournament in Estero, Florida, with a 1-0-0 record.
"I thought there was lots of effort," Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach Karl Taylor said. "We needed to get our legs under us, and being down and coming back in the third is always a good sign. If you look at the stats and the numbers, it's rare to have that occur, so that was a nice growth moment figuring that out."
"That first game of this tournament, you never really know what you're going to get," Blackwell said. "It's the first time a lot of guys have played since March or April or May… but it was good to see how we regrouped in the third and finished that off. There's a lot of good things, but there's a lot of things to clean up by tomorrow and get back after it again."
It took Blackwell less than 90 seconds into the game to give the Predators a 1-0 lead when he slammed a loose puck into the back of the cage, but Washington potted the next three goals, one in the first and two more in the second.
Before the middle frame was out, however, a point shot from Joonas Lyytinen found its way to the cage, and Anthony Richard and Yakov Trenin were there to provide traffic, with Trenin eventually getting credit for the marker.
Video: Mathieu Olivier talks Nashville's 5-4 win
It didn't take Olivier long into the final frame to sneak a shot past Washington netminder Ilya Samsonov, and a one-time strike from Blackwell on the power play got Nashville the lead once more.
"My mentality is to go out there shoot as much as possible," Blackwell said. "For me, it's about finding those soft areas and playing with a little more poise out there and learning from my experiences. I felt pretty comfortable out there."
After the Caps countered to make it four all, Olivier, who had just finished serving a penalty, got a gift as he stepped out of the box to head in on a breakaway. The gritty winger, who also had a scrap in the first period, put his hands to use once more to pot what turned out to be the game-winner for Nashville.
Video: Coach Taylor discusses his team's win
"The number of times that it could have happened in the past and didn't happen, and now it happens at the right moment right time, I'm pretty happy about that," Olivier laughed. "Filip [Pyrochta] made a great play, got the puck up ice and I just tried to keep it simple and put it in the open space."
The Predators had to withstand quite a test in the final two minutes as the Capitals received a 5-on-3 advantage, which rose to six after they pulled Samsonov. But, Blackwell teamed up with defensemen Jack Dougherty and Alexandre Carrier to withstand the final barrage, and along with goaltender Niclas Westerholm, the Preds found a way to collect the victory.
"That was a little hairy," Taylor joked of the final kill. "We credit [Admirals Assistant Coach] Scott Ford for that. He's going to be our penalty killing expert, and it's early to be working on a 6-on-3 without having much practice time, but the guys found a way."
It's a quick turnaround for the Preds rookies as they get set to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon, and the group wants to see more consistency in their game, as well as fewer mistakes throughout regulation. However, a quality comeback on the first try is never a bad way to start, and with some corrections, the Preds could collect a second victory in as many days.
Video: Blackwell talks third period comeback
Goaltenders Miroslav Svoboda and Niclas Westerholm split time in the Nashville net on Saturday. Svoboda surrendered one goal in the first period, while Westerholm allowed three in the second half of the game before standing tall in the final minutes.
Defenseman Alexandre Carrier is captaining the Preds rookies in the tournament; Blackwell and forward Justin Kirkland served as assistant captains on Saturday.
The Preds will face Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon at noon CT from Germain Arena before concluding the tournament on Tuesday morning against Washington.
Video: Highlights from the Preds 5-4 win