Down 3-0 to start the third period, the Nashville Predators would not go quietly against division-rival St. Louis. The Preds got two goals from Austin Watson and one from Calle Jarnkrok to turn a three-goal deficit into a tie game heading into overtime.
Just 1:19 into the extra period, Preds’ forward Filip Forsberg became just the 13th player in NHL history to score a game-winning goal on a penalty shot in overtime in the regular season, and just the second player in Preds history to score on a penalty shot in overtime – David Legwand was the other.
“I knew what I was going to do on him (on the penalty shot),” Forsberg said. “It was a little messy, but I just tried to keep it simple and it worked. It was helpful (facing him in practice over the years), but at the same time, he’s probably familiar with me too. It goes both ways.”
Nashville has points in its last seven games, including five straight overtime games. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is largely responsible for both. Rinne, who picked up career win No. 298, hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Jan. 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
He saved 28 of 31 shots against the Blues, keeping the Preds in the game long enough for the Preds offense to stage a comeback.
“There wasn’t a question going out into the third period that we could win a hockey game,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I don’t think there was a question for them. Once we got a goal, we really started getting things rolling in the right direction.”
“We were definitely not happy with the first two (periods),” Forsberg said. “We talked in the intermission going into the third and just said, ‘get the first one.’ We’ve come back a lot of times before, especially in this building, and it was nice to do it again.”
Watson snapped a 13-game scoring drought. His last points came against Los Angeles back on Jan. 6, also a two-goal performance.
“He got into the hard areas,” Laviolette said. “We talked about that. Their defense is so big and they do such a good job in front of their goaltender that it makes it difficult to find those situations. You really have to pay the price to get their interior, and he did.
“I think he’s always trying to (improve). A lot of it is the role that we use him in as well. It probably doesn’t allow him as much opportunity if you’re always starting in the defensive zone. He scored big goals for us in the past. I think that line is capable of scoring goals. It’s nice to see guys like Austin get rewarded for being a physical player who sacrifices his body all the time. It’s nice to see him chip in with a big night offensively.”
Blues goaltender Carter Hutton entered the game 10-2-1 in his last 13 starts dating back to Dec. 30. Nashville is only the second team to score at least four goals against Hutton during that span. In addition, the Preds put more distance between themselves and the Blues, who are now five points back of Nashville, who has four games in hand.
“The division is so tight and that’s a really good hockey team,” Watson said. “They’re playing really well. Hutton is playing awesome for them. It looked like he was going to get them all there for a while and was great back there. Any time you can beat a division opponent, especially one that’s up there in the standings with you, it’s a huge win.”
“The division is probably going to determine the outcome of the league, and the conference, and these games really matter,” Forsberg added.