The double feature in the Music City on Saturday began with a 2-1 Nashville Predators triumph over the visiting Florida Panthers in a shootout.
The third-ever installment of a preseason doubleheader between Florida and Nashville, the Preds went two-for-two in the skills competition en-route to a shootout victory thanks to tallies from forwards Derek Roy and Craig Smith.
“It’s nice for me when we shoot first,” Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton said. “Roy gives us the lead right off the bat, and then you kind of feel like it’s almost in your hands at that point. You tell yourself as the goalie that if you make the saves then you’ll win out and I’ve always loved that opportunity as a goalie. It’s kind of like scoring a big goal for your team. If I can make the save to win, I think I’d take that any game.”
Smith opened the scoring under five minutes into the first period with a rebound putback just seconds after Paul Gaustad stepped on the ice as the extra attacker on a delayed penalty call. After the early strike, however, both offenses remained silent for the next 48 minutes until late in the third frame.
“It was tough trying to fight through a [slow game],” Roy said. “The ice wasn’t great today, so we tried to keep it simple and make good, smart plays out there. Goaltending was great tonight and that’s pretty much all we needed. This is still a great time to work on things that we really need in the regular season.”
“It was slow out there at times today, but that’s something you have to fight through,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette explained. “We had a lot of young guys out there in spots they might not be used to, so maybe some nerves were a factor in that. These games can be big learning experiences, and I think we got some good work on the penalty kill and some on the power play.”
Sporadic offense for both clubs defined much of the afternoon tilt, but the Panthers finally solved Hutton with 7:08 remaining in the contest on Brandon Pirri’s power play goal.
The Predators netminder made sure Pirri’s tally was the only puck that beat him for the rest of regulation and overtime by making several fine stops, especially in the extra frame.
“Nick Bjugstad has such a long reach that I wasn’t trying to cheat; I was trying to be patient with him,” Hutton said. “A lot of guys try to open you up and go back five hole. So just trying to be patient I was able to get my toe out there and make the stop [in overtime].”
The shootout loss was Florida’s second in their two preseason games, while Nashville’s record moves to 2-1-0.