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Sullivan's OT goal sinks Ducks 5-4

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Jason Arnott watches Sullivan's game-winner beat Ilja Bryzgalov
Photo by John Russell
Predators forward Jason Arnott watches as Steve Sullivan's shot ripples the back of the Anaheim net in overtime to give Nashville a 5-4 win Tuesday.

Steve Sullivan scored 3:12 into overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The Predators, who led the game 3-1 after one period and 4-2 midway through the second, got big performances from their big-name players to defeat the No. 1 ranked team in the National Hockey League.

Nashville, currently in third place in the league, improved to 29-11-3 on the season and pulled within four points of the first-place Ducks. The Predators maintained a four-point cushion over the Detroit Red Wings--who also won Tuesday--for the top spot in the Central Division standings.

Paul Kariya and Kimmo Timonen each posted a goal and an assist Tuesday and defenseman Marek Zidlicky chipped in three assists. Winger Martin Erat registered two helpers in his first action since missing two games with a hip flexor strain. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who returned to the nets after missing 20 games with a thumb injury, made 27 saves for his 12th victory of the season.

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The teams started and ended the third period tied 4-4, forcing a five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime session. Ducks goaltender Ilja Bryzgalov made a save on a chance by Erat with about 2:15 gone in the extra period and Vokoun answered with back-to-back stops on Anaheim's Teemu Selanne at the other end 15 seconds later. Then, around the 3:00 mark, Sullivan carried the puck up-ice and held up inside the far blue line. He passed to Timonen who carried the puck down the right side and curled behind the goal before centering a puck into the slot for teammate Jason Arnott. The pass hit the stick of a Ducks defender and went higher into the slot, where Sullivan pounced on the puck and deposited it into a largely vacated net.

"I was standing in the slot by myself and just threw it," Sullivan said. "Obviously everybody was on the one side of the net so I just threw it on the other side and prayed."

Sullivan credited Arnott for screening Bryzgalov--and moving from the puck's path just in time.

"I just turned around and I knew [Sullivan] was going to shoot it," Arnott said. "It was coming for me and I just kind of got out of the way and the goalie was already down and out."

Nashville held a 3-1 lead after the first period but Anaheim rallied to tie the game in the second. The Ducks' third-ranked power-play went to work when the Predators got into some penalty trouble and capitalized twice in the second. J.P. Dumont scored Nashville's lone goal of that period, an even-strength marker that made it 4-2 at 7:14. Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne scored for Anaheim in the latter half of the period to even the score. 

"The M.O. with Anaheim [is] when they fall out of games, they get back on the power play...," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought the second and third goals really stung us in terms of momentum. But [it was a] testament of our character, we just said, 'Hey, it's a 0-0 game for 20 minutes in our building. If we skate and get back to doing what we're capable of doing, we'll win this hockey game. The guys just went back and did that.

"In big games your leaders step up. I thought Paul Kariya was outstanding. I thought Kimmo Timonen was great. He was fantastic out there. And Stevie Sullivan. I mean, he scored the winning goal. He was solid today. So our leadership group really stepped up when it counted and guys rallied around [Vokoun] in his first game back."

The game had a wild start. The first three goals were scored in a 1:42 span and Nashville's Jordin Tootoo tangled with Anaheim's Shane O'Brien at the face-off following the third goal. Kariya opened the scoring at 3:53, after Erat made a move around Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer in the neutral zone to accept a long outlet pass from Zidlicky. Erat and Kariya broke in 2-on-1 and Erat dished to Kariya on the right side for a one-timer that beat Bryzgalov.

Corey Perry hit Chris Kunitz with a long outlet pass that resulted in Anaheim's first goal just 24 seconds after Kariya's tally. David Legwand restored the one-goal lead for Nashville 1:18 later when a misplay by Ducks forward Andy McDonald in the neutral zone sent Erat into the left side of the Anaheim end. Erat backhanded a centering pass to Legwand, who was cutting through the middle and put the puck through the legs of Bryzgalov to make it 2-1 at 4:17.

Highlights of Predators vs. Ducks, Jan. 9, 2007 (1:37)

O'Brien had made gestures to Tootoo to drop the gloves earlier in the game, but after Nashville's second goal Tootoo obliged. The two engaged in a brief bout that further energized the GEC crowd.

The Predators efficiently neutralized Anaheim's first power-play and Timonen nearly deposited a goal during a span in which the teams skated four-on-four. Timonen eventually did make it 3-1 seconds after the Predators' second power-play expired. Zidlicky sent a pass to Kariya for a one-timer that clanked off of Bryzgalov's mask. Timonen swooped in from the bottom of the right circle to find the rebound in the slot and lob it over the Anaheim goaltender at 17:24.

Next up for Nashville is a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and Saturday. The pair of games opens Friday night at the GEC. Game time is 7:00 p.m. CT and tickets are still available.

NOTES: Steve Sullivan's game-winning tally was his fourth career overtime goal... Paul Kariya's goal and assist Tuesday gave him his 14th multi-point performance of the season. He has points in 11 of the last 14 games (8g-13a=21pts) and the Predators are 13-0-0 when he scores... Marek Zidlicky posted three assists and was a +4 in the game. It was his third multi-point game of the season and he became the 11th 20-point scorer for Nashville. He had just one assist in the previous 10 games... Martin Erat's two assists marked his ninth multi-point game of the season. That brings his assist total to 28, one short of last year's total... Kimmo Timonen had a goal and an assist and was a +5 for the game. He has points in 9 of the last 11 games (2g-10a=12pts)... With a goal Tuesday, David Legwand has 11 points (5g-6a) in the last 10 games... The Predators have won three games in a row and are 11-3-0 in their last 14... Nashville is 6-3 in overtime this season and 17-6 in one-goal decisions... The Predators are 14-3-3 at home, 19-9-2 when outshot by their opponent, and 8-4-0 when tied after two periods.

Post-Game Comments


On his return
"It was hard. No question. It obviously wasn't one of my greatest games, but thank god we pulled it out at the end. Like I said, it wasn't pretty, but we got two points. At least I can stay positive from that. It's not going to be easy to get back, but that is what the situation is. I'm going to try and get better as I go along."

On the importance of beating Anaheim
"We played great. The first period was unbelievable. There were a few soft goals in the second period, but the team overcame that and we won in overtime. It's great to see we can match up and we know that already, but we can match up against anybody. It shows when your goalie doesn't have the best game that the team can overcome that and that's a sign of good teams."

On having a 'playoff feel' on the ice
"If you want to go anywhere, this is the team that you probably have to beat. There's a reason they're number one in our conference and they're a good team. We have two more games against them to kind of see where we are and how we match up."


On beating the Ducks
"We are trying to chase them in the conference, they're ahead of us in first place, and they are the best team in the NHL, so for us to have such a great first period and such a bad second, to come out with a victory. There were some good things and bad things we did tonight and we'll take all the good out of it and continue on."

On the type of effort needed to beat the Ducks
"After the second period, it was a tied hockey game. They had all the momentum going into the third period. So we came back in (the locker room) and I think we did a really good job to regroup and go back in the third. We played a solid third period. We didn't give them much; they didn't give us much, but we were able to try and find a way in overtime to win."

On the pass from Kimmo Timonen
"Kimmo, thank god, came off the bench, I was running out of options, and he's such a talented player. And as forwards, we expect our defense that they are going to be jumping into the play. With (Marek) Zidlicky, Kimmo, and the other ones too, they all like to jump into the play. So, as a forward, especially in overtime when its four-on-four, you're expecting your (defensemen) to jump in. I was just waiting to see how I could get it to him."


On the game
"I honestly think that was our best period we played so far, the first period. I think the second period, we took some penalties again that let them back in the game. We talked after the second period, ˜no more penalties anymore, and we are going to be fine."I think it was a solid third period."

On facing Anaheim
"They are the top team in the league. It was a good opportunity for us to match our speed and team.  I thought we did a pretty good job."

On adjusting after the second period
"I don't think we did anything different in than the first period. I think we took some penalties in the second period that let them back in the game. We actually knew that they have one of the top power-plays in the league. We took some penalties and they scored two or three goals on the power-play and let them back in the game. We were talking about that after the second period, that we can't anymore penalties. That's what happened. I think we were pretty good in the third period."

On the game-winning goal
"I changed and (Sullivan) had the puck. He made a nice play to me and I actually tried to pass to (Arnott). I knew he was going to be in front, somehow, it got to (Sullivan) and he scored."


On the topic of feeling sympathetic toward Anaheim not being full strength
"It's probably no different than when we were up in their building. We were missing Legwand and Arnott. So no, I don't have any sympathy for them. They didn't have any sympathy for us."

On the topic of first-period play
"First period we played outstanding. It might've been our best period of the year. I thought we controlled things, we really didn't give anything up."

On the topic of Anaheim's power play
"Their power play gives everybody a lot of trouble ”they're like 23 percent. They got some high skill guys. They create some scenes, and high-skill passes, and they launch rockets. They're a dynamic power play."

On the topic of coming back in the second period
"They sort of got back on the power play. Tomas probably wasn't as sharp as he could've been. I thought the second and third goals stung us in terms of momentum. But it's a testament of character. Your leaders step up in big games. Our leadership group really stepped up when it counted."

On the topic of Vokoun's first game back
"Vokie had a lot of courage and conviction to say 'Hey, I'm ready for Anaheim.'That says a lot about Vokie. It wasn't maybe Vokie's best game but it tells you a lot about him. He's not shy in big games to step in in big games and take responsibility. He's a great goaltender. He's gonna get into the flow. You can practice all you want but games are so much different. He's gonna be fine. He's moves well. He's a strong goaltender so we're in real good shape there."

On the topic of Erat's return
"I thought he had lots of jump in his legs... That's a tribute to that line that they went head to head against a very dynamic line."


Overall Impression of the game
"Well we didn't have a very good first period.  It might have been the worst first period we played all season. We clawed our way back into it but we weren't sharp as a group."

"It's a tough way to lose in an overtime but considering our start you would have to think there is a positive out of it that we got a point in it and we will move on."

On injuries
"Its hockey, you have to deal with injuries through the course of the season and there are two teams that can skate."


On his return to the lineup
"I've been out 2 weeks and missed 6 games and it's good to get back in there.  I wouldn't say I felt a 100% but I felt pretty good. Had a couple chances to get hit, to give a hit."

"Skating actually bothers me more than the body contact."

Overall impression of the game tonight
"We got off to a slow start but we fought back, showed a lot of character."

"They are leading the Central Division for a reason.  We got a point, now would like to get 2 points, for sure - but it's better than no points. We have to look at this game and learn from our mistakes and build and get better next game against Dallas on Thursday."

Looking forward to the All Star break
"We got 5 games to go here. There is no reason why we can't set our goal to win all 5. It's not going to be easy."


On at least getting 1 point
"We can't afford to have these kinds of starts.  When you put yourself behind the 8 ball right away its tough to come back in this league."

On his number of chances
"I easily would have 3 or 4 goals tonight but it's one of those nights."


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