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Preds Take First in NHL With OT Win

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Shea Weber ended overtime 17 seconds in with a goal from the right circle and the Nashville Predators took down the Dallas Stars to move into first place in the NHL.

The victory improved the Preds home record to 16-2-1 on the season and two goals from the team’s Captain opened and closed the game. Nashville never trailed in their third meeting of the season with the Stars, but the home team did need extra time to improve to 3-0-0 versus Dallas this campaign.

“Now we want to hold onto [first],” Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “We’ve been fighting a lot to get there. Everybody knows it’s not easy to hold onto the top spot in the League, because every team is coming at us really focused and trying to take two points. But I think as a team, that’s just made us better.”

Weber tallied 15 minutes into the first period to open the scoring and later added his 10th goal of the season to seal the win.

Dallas rallied twice, including Trevor Dailey’s tally with two seconds remaining in the second frame to knot the game at 2-2.

A scoreless third period sent the game to overtime where Weber flipped a puck past netminder Kari Lehtonen just seconds into the extra session.

“We have confidence right now,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “I think in the second intermission, we came in and we all said to each other, ‘We have been here before.’ We have won games from this, we have come from behind and pulled out leads and it is just a great group of guys here. We battled hard all 60 minutes.”

The Nashville victory gave the club 58 points, the best winning percentage in the NHL, and tied the Predators atop the NHL’s standing with the Anaheim Ducks.

No. 1 for Salomaki:

As they grow up, there’s a day young hockey players dream of for years. Many seek it, but few actually attain it.

Preds forward Miikka Salomaki became one of the select group to skate in the National Hockey League when he played in his first contest at hockey’s highest level on Thursday against the Stars. The chance of a lifetime wasn’t just about participating in the game for Salomaki, however, as the young winger also added his first goal.

“It has been a dream for me to play in the NHL and to have my first game and first goal is so fun,” Salomaki said. “I have no words. It was just an awesome feeling.”

The 21-year-old took a breakaway pass from Roman Josi and fired a low shot at the Stars net. Salomaki then collected his own rebound and put the puck over Lehtonen’s pad to give the Preds a 2-1 advantage.

“It’s so awesome when you [play in] your first game, it’s a memory you never forget,” Josi said. “I still remember my first game and it’s really great to see guys getting into the NHL for the first time. For Salomaki to get a goal in his first game too, that’s hard to beat.”

Salomaki was recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals at the end of last week and was with Nashville for their two games versus Los Angeles and Anaheim, but didn’t play in either contest and was reassigned on Monday. So close to his long-time goal, the forward got his chance again on Thursday morning and didn’t look back.

“It was a good first impression,” Laviolette said of Salomaki. “Our guys get sent down to the minors and they go and they work on their game. Last year, he was one of the top guys for them and this year, reports on him have been very good. He comes up and plays a straight north game, a hard game, and the goal was a good example.”

No. 100 for Josi:

The night may have seemed to belong to Weber, but his defensive partner also capped off a historic and memorable evening as well. Roman Josi has been playing some of the best hockey of his career the past two weeks and the Swiss D-man added a career milestone on Thursday to help remember his recent stretch.

Josi collected an assist on Weber’s first of the contest to hit an even 100 points for his career.

“It’s definitely special,” Josi said. “When I was young I dreamed of playing in the Swiss League, but now I’ve been in the NHL for a few years now and I’m living that dream even more. To get to this many points already is pretty crazy.”

The 24-year-old’s head coach said the career mark helps to show how much Josi has helped the Predators offensively, especially this year, but that his skill on defense can’t be glossed over.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Laviolette said of Josi. “I think he gets recognized for his offense and putting up the points, but I think he’s an incredible defender. His reads the play well and his time and space defensively are just outstanding. He’s an excellent two-way defenseman and it’s nice that he’s able to reach that milestone of [100 NHL points].”

Josi had connected on the Preds last three game-winning goals (scoring two of them) prior to Thursday’s win, and although his streak ended against the Stars, two assists for the blueliner boosted Nashville in another manner. Plus, he’s already started on his next 100 with now 101 points to his credit.

End game:

Thursday marked Weber’s second two-goal game of the season, with the other coming on Dec. 30 against St. Louis. With his two goals tonight, Weber has now hit double digits in goals for the seventh time in his career.

The Predators have now scored at least three goals in 11-consecutive games and are now 16-2-1 at Bridgestone Arena, as well as 10-1-2 when tied after two periods.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis left tonight’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. No update was given on his status postgame.

Nashville is now 3-0-0 this season against Dallas.

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