The Predators wanted to put forth a better effort in front of goaltender Juuse Saros. On Saturday night, they got a nearly perfect effort from the man himself.
Saros made 33 saves through 65 minutes - and turned away five more opportunities in the shootout - as Nashville defeated the New Jersey Devils, 2-1, at Bridgestone Arena.
The result gives the Preds a clean sweep of their three-game homestand, as well as a perfect record against the Devils to conclude the season series between the two.
"It was a really great hockey game," Preds center Ryan Johansen said. "The Devils played really well, for having to play back-to-back hockey games; they worked really hard and made it tough on us. It was huge for us to find a way to get it done."
Frederick Gaudreau provided the only goal through the game's first 40 minutes as he potted a rebound for his second of the season with less than two minutes to play in the first period. Nashville had a power-play goal called back due to goaltender interference in the middle frame, negating what would have been Roman Josi's sixth.
Video: NJD@NSH: Gaudreau nets rebound for opening goal
It looked as though Saros might be on his way to his second shutout of the season, but Brian Boyle evened the score with less than two minutes to play in regulation to send both the Preds and Devils to overtime for the third consecutive meeting.
Both clubs traded chances in OT, and in the shootout, it was Ryan Ellis and Johansen who played the role of heroes to earn the extra point.
Video: NJD@NSH: Johansen dekes out Kinkaid to net SO goal
"It's a huge win," Gaudreau said. "Juuse did such a great job in the shootout and the whole game. It's a big win."
From here, the Predators will head back out on the road for a four-game trip, and they'll try to do something they haven't done in over a month - collect a win away from Nashville.
"It was important to get three wins after coming off the road and losing a couple," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We have some games here before Christmas. The road is something we've talked about. We have to do a better job. I don't think that we played the right way or been competitive enough on the road, so there's an opportunity coming up where we have a stretch of road games and a chance to fix that. We'll be ready to play."
Video: NJD@NSH: Saros shuts the door on Coleman
Juice Is Loose:
Peter Laviolette didn't mince words prior to Saturday's game.
The bench boss believed his club wasn't playing up to their high standards when Juuse Saros was tending the net as of late, calling recent efforts in front of No. 74: "lousy."
Just hours after Laviolette issued the challenge, his group responded, and the man tending the cage did his part as well to clinch a satisfying shootout victory, the first such triumph of his career.
"I have to thank the guys for that; they let me see the puck and didn't give up too many scoring chances," Saros said. "They played great in front of me."
"We played a more complete game," Johansen said. "For [Saros] to come in and play the way he did was awesome. Overall, everyone on the team played great tonight."
Not only was the defensive effort in front of Saros much improved, the play of the goaltender himself was also admirable. Saros made save after save in regulation, and after allowing a goal on the first shot of the shootout, he battled back to stymie the rest of the Devils on the way to his eighth victory of the season.
All night long, extended cheers of "Juuuusssse" rained down from the sellout crowd, and for good reason.
"He was really good," Laviolette said of Saros. "There wasn't a lot that tested him in the first two periods. I think sometimes that can be more challenging where you're taking the hardest hits late in the game, in the third period, in the overtime, in the shootout, when you're called on the most. That's when he really shined for me. He got better as the game went on."
Video: Johansen, Predators top Devils in shootout
Anthony Bitetto and Zac Rinaldo were scratched for the Preds on Saturday.
Nashville is now 10-0-0 against the Eastern Conference this season.
The Preds have earned a point in eight consecutive games (4-0-4) against the Devils at Bridgestone Arena dating back to Nov. 19, 2009.
With the homestand now complete, the Predators will head out on the road for a four-game set prior to the Christmas break next week. The first stop comes in Ottawa on Monday, followed by visits to Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.