Still battling their way up for a potential wildcard playoff spot, the Nashville Predators knew that two points against an Eastern Conference opponent would help them gain ground in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. An evenly matched battle against the New Jersey Devils in front of an over-capacity crowd of 17,207, wouldn’t be decided until overtime with captain Shea Weber leading the Predators to a 3-2 victory.
This game also marked the debut for the newest Nashville Predator, Michael Del Zotto, in front of the home crowd, and he had some nice remarks about the fans in Nashville. In Friday night’s game, Del Zotto racked up 17:25 of ice time as well as four hits and two blocked shots.
Early on in the first period, the Predators controlled play, including leading shots on goal by an 8-2 margin over the Devils just five minutes into the game. Two great chances from Shea Weber and Mattias Ekholm came from the point, but New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider was up to the task, saving both.
Captain Shea Weber was listed as day-to-day, but he proved that his slap shot was still ready and able as he zoomed one in past Cory Schneider at 6:45 for his 14th of the season. Schneider mishandled the puck near the net, Patric Hornqvist picked it up and passed it to the point where Weber fired it home.
“I think it was good Shea decided to play tonight; that made all the difference,” said Barry Trotz. “I think he should get more consideration [for the Norris Trophy], because he’s having his best year ever.”
At 14:53 of the first period, Craig Smith took a high sticking penalty on the follow through of a shot. The Devils were forced to keep their chances to the outside and Nashville killed off the penalty.
After dominating much of the first period, the Predators went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead and a 13-9 lead in shots.
Early in the second period, Nashville went on the power play when Anton Volchenkov interfered with Colin Wilson. There wasn’t much structure to the power play and the Devils killed it off. In exchange, Colton Sissons took his first NHL penalty, a holding call, at 5:56. During the penalty kill, Gabriel Bourque had a nice short-handed opportunity, but Schneider made the save off of his arm. Unable to score, the power play for New Jersey expired and teams were back at even strength.
At 13:00 of the second, Carter Hutton let in a goal that he would definitely want back. Patrik Elias (from Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac) shot the puck at the net and Hutton’s glove got a piece of it. The puck then fell to the ice and trickled in to tie the game at 1-1.
Even though Craig Smith did not find his way to the score sheet, he did draw a penalty at 14:59 of the second. It was Smith’s strong forecheck that forced Dainius Zubrus to take a tripping penalty and put the Predators on the power play.
Nashville had multiple attempts, but they were not able to beat Schneider. As the power play was expiring. Ryan Ellis bolted in and attempted a one timer slap shot, but where stopped with a tremendous save by Schneider.
Late in the second, New Jersey took the 2-1 lead when Jaromir Jagr circled around from the back of the net and flicked it toward Hutton, where it slowly found its way past the goal line. At the end of two, Nashville had the lead in shots 25-17, but the Devils held the lead on the scoreboard 2-1.
“Jagr just absolutely amazes me on how strong, fast and deceptive he is,” spoke Barry Trotz on the play of Jaromir Jagr. “He’s been in this league for a long time and it amazes me that he got that second goal.”
The third period seemed fairly disorganized for both teams, as New Jersey was trying to shut down the Predators. It wasn’t until midway in the third that activity began to pick up. At 12:09, Colin Wilson and Steve Bernier received coincidental minors after a stoppage in play. Opportunities for the Predators began to rise and the Devils were forced to take their timeout at 14:55
With Nashville now controlling play, but still down 2-1, Hutton was pulled at 1:07 for the extra attacker. After multiple shot attempts, the Predators finally beat Schneider when David Legwand scored off a rebound from a Roman Josi shot with only 11 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I was celebrating pretty hard, I was excited,” said goaltender Carter Hutton on Legwand’s game-tying goal. ” But then from there you have to focus right back in. You know that you have the two points and you have to get back in there and shut the door.”
In overtime, Nashville controlled play as they did during the first period, but what seemed to light a fire in them was a tremendous leg save by Carter Hutton on a Michael Ryder breakaway.
“In overtime he made a great save and gave us a chance to get the two points back,” expressed David Legwand on Hutton’s tremendous save. “You have to have a short-term memory, and he did tonight.”
The Predators were then able to get the puck back in the New Jersey zone with Colin Wilson leading the rush. As Wilson neared the slot, he had what is now becoming a signature move of his, as he left a drop pass to Shea Weber, who then fired it past Schneider for game-winner and his 15th of the season.
Below are comments from a very enthused Barry Trotz following the game.