It took tying the game in the dying seconds of the third period and a tremendous overtime goal for the Nashville Predators to end the regular season at home on a good note.
Throughout the first 47 minutes of the game, the Predators just couldn’t find a way to get one past goaltender Mike Smith. Finally, while on the power play, Shea Weber started the comeback at 7:36 of the third and Filip Forsberg tied the game at 2-2 with just 18 seconds remaining in regulation. Roman Josi finished the comeback by scoring just 20 seconds into overtime.
“I think our mindset was to get the puck to the net and I think we did a pretty good job of it the whole night,” said defenseman Anthony Bitetto. “It’s funny, you shoot the puck as hard as you want then a little wrister goes in, so you just have to get it to the net. That’s the key.”
Thursday night’s game was also Bitetto’s first game action since March 17 against the Islanders. He had been out with injury. Against the Coyotes, Bitetto logged 11:02 on the ice, laid out three hits and blocked three shots.
“It was great,” said Bitetto on his return. “You forget how loud that building is. It’s pretty special to be out there and to see that atmosphere again. It’s so worth playing here, it’s amazing, it really is.”
With the defensive corps getting healthy and by making a comeback in the waning seconds of a game, it’s sure to build confidence in the locker room.
“It puts the confidence level high for everyone in the room,” said Bitetto. “That’s what’s huge about going into the playoffs. We have one more game Saturday, and I think after that game one is going to be physical and fast. It’s the playoffs, and that’s why we play.”
Coming from behind to get a win is just another sign of a good team. While their record may not show it, Arizona isn’t a easy victory. They have young, hungry players that bode well for their future. For Nashville to finally solve Mike Smith and score three unanswered goals, it’s a sign of things beginning to click again following a rough patch.
“The trick is not to play from behind, but that’s part of the game,” said Bitetto, laughing. “I think if you stick to the game plan that we have and we executed it tonight down the stretch, that’s all you can really ask for.”
To close out the regular season, the Predators will head to Dallas. While the game won’t change anything in the standings for Nashville, a Central Division titles is on the line for the Stars. It will give Nashville an opportunity to face a team that has plenty to play for, and it’s also a team they could potentially see in the Western Conference Finals should both teams make a deep run.
“I think we just play our game,” said Bitetto on the key to Saturday’s game. “We go out there and don’t worry about them. It’s going to be physical. They’re a team that you can see down the road there. I think you have to set the tone for the playoffs in the last game of the season, so I think it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be that last thing before game one.”