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Third-Period Rally, Hutton's Save Gives Preds Win Over Leafs

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

A third-period rally, plus a game-saving stop from Carter Hutton gave the Nashville Predators a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.

After Toronto took their first lead of the night at 3-2 following two goals in 37 seconds to begin the third period, Nashville answered with tallies from Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson to claim a new franchise-record, ninth-straight win at home.

The Preds response to the visitors taking the lead three minutes into the final frame came quickly after Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette used his timeout following the Leafs third marker.

“The way we played in the first few minutes of the third period, I did not think we would be successful if we continued down that road,” Laviolette said. “I would rather get up to the plate and swing for home runs regardless of the score, and whatever happens will happen.

“You have to give the guys a lot of credit because there was definitely a response from that point on. We started playing more physical, bringing them into puck battles and taking that puck to the net.”

Wilson agreed with his head coach’s assessment of the response from the timeout, acknowledging that the Preds got back to their game from that point on.

“[Laviolette] said we might as well leave it on the ice, because we’ve got nothing to lose,” Wilson said. “We saw it coming. We didn’t play well in the second and they kind of changed the momentum and we had to counter that. We knew there was nothing to lose and we got our legs moving and it worked.”

Once the Predators reclaimed a one-goal advantage, they still relied on Hutton to make an improbable save in the dying minutes of regulation. Off of a Daniel Winnik deflection in-tight, Hutton threw his body back toward the net and chopped the puck out of danger with a spinning swipe.

“We’d still be on the ice probably without it,” Wilson said postgame. “That was a great save. I was out there, and I saw the puck was going back and it was just a great play by [Hutton].”

Nashville held a 2-0 lead after the first period due to a pair of special teams’ scores. Preds defenseman Seth Jones tallied his first career shorthanded goal at 11:52 of the first, and fellow blueliner Shea Weber released a rocket on the power-play tally less than four minutes later.

Hutton’s Game-Saver:

The Preds Captain said it should be on SportsCenter. Mattias Ekholm and Mike Fisher said they still weren’t sure how the puck didn’t enter the net. “Save of the Year” language was tossed around too.

It was Hutton’s spinning, behind-the-back swat of the puck that prevented a late, tying goal that had the locker room abuzz following the Preds 21st one-goal victory of the season.

“I was standing behind Hutton and I’m not sure that I would have had it,” Ekholm said. “That was just unreal. I didn’t know what to think in the moment. I just saw him whack it behind himself. That’s a Top 10 save of the year for sure.”

The goaltender himself found it difficult to describe exactly how he pulled off the save with under three minutes remaining in regulation.

"It just popped out from the one-timer,” Hutton said. “[Tyler Bozak] shot it and I knew Winnik was driving wide. It's one of those ones where it hits the body and you know it's going to bounce. I was able to just spin and have my eye on it and catch it with my stick…You battle on every puck and sometimes it just goes your way."

Overall, the netminder recorded 25 saves for his second-straight win and his fourth since taking over for the injured Pekka Rinne. Hutton’s coach complimented the goalie’s play - throughout the contest - in addition to his highlight-reel save.

“I saw it quickly, I did not see what happened directly,” Laviolette said of Hutton’s save. “I thought it was earmarked for the back of the net and then it was not, so something spectacular happened. Carter was sharp, he did a terrific job.”

(Watch the save here)

Franchise Record at Home:

Count them. Nine in a row.

The Predators set a new franchise record with nine-consecutive wins at home on Tuesday night, a stretch that’s seen the team go undefeated at Bridgestone Arena for 59 days.

The most recent period of perfection in their own rink has the Preds home record up to 20-2-1, the top mark in the NHL. The club also went seven games without a loss on home ice during an earlier stretch in the season.

“It’s been such a great run here and hopefully we can keep it going even longer,” Ekholm said. “Our fans are great and they give us the extra boost every time we came back from a deficit tonight. I think it’s kudos to the fans for what they do every time, every night.”

Fisher, who evened the score at 3-3 in the third period, said the Predators were confident they would come back on Tuesday against the Leafs because they’ve rallied at home so many times before.

“We’ve been good at home; we’ve shown that we can come back, so why not do it again?” Fisher said of the team’s mindset early in the third period. “We’ve been really solid at home. There’s been fun victories, some timely ones, some pretty and not so pretty. It’s just been a great stretch here.”

“We’re taking pride [in playing here],” Wilson said. “And I think that’s what you saw tonight for us to battle back from being down 3-2...We’re trying to win every single game at home and we’re doing a great job of it this year.”

In his first year experiencing the Preds potent, home-ice advantage, Laviolette was also complimentary of what his team and their fans have been able to build.

“I think it is something to take pride in,” Laviolette said. “These are our fans and they are terrific. You would not be able to put a run together like this only for the club or just [trying] to be successful in the game itself, but in front of the fans who have been here to support us so strong the entire year, it’s a big positive.”

End Game:

Tuesday marked the first time in Preds history that defensemen have scored both a shorthanded goal (Seth Jones) and a power-play goal (Shea Weber) in the same game.

With a goal and an assist tonight, Colin Wilson tied a career high in both points (35) and goals (16) in a single season.

The Preds have now tallied 15 power-play goals in their last 17 games. Nashville is 21-4-6 in one-goal games this season. Mike Fisher, who had three points tonight (1g, 2a), now has 25 points in his last 26 games.

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