The Nashville Predators went toe to toe with the Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils and won by a 3-2 score in a shootout, in a game that was much like a chess match from start to finish.
Marty Erat broke a 1-1 tie in the shootout for the game winning goal. Mike Satorelli had opened the shootout with a goal for the Preds and Travis Zajac had tied the match on the Devil’s final attempt setting the stage for Erat’s goal.
The Preds thought they had won for a split second when Zajac initially appeared to have lost the puck but it never stopped moving and he was able to recover for a very awkward shot that left Pred Goalie Pekka Rinne somewhat confused.
“I just quit the play and it cost me,” Rinne explained. “Luckily Marty came back and scored. I honestly thought the ref was going to blow the whistle when he lost the puck but it wasn’t over. It was a good goal.”
The Predators had been on a roll coming into the game having beaten the best team in the Western Conference on Tuesday in San Jose and were facing the Devils who had their eight game winning streak snapped by the Flyers on Monday.
The Jacques Lemaire coached Devils are the best team in the league at playing a controlled, stifling game that dictates the pace and limits the oppositions chances.
“It’s a tough team to play against, their system is very sound and then you have to beat Marty in net,” Jason Arnott said after the game. “They are a very tough opponent and we just stuck with it and going into a shoot-out with them it’s a good test for us that if we stick together we can do good things.”
Jason Arnott had all the offense the Predators needed to take the game into overtime. Arnott scored two goals, the first at 4:44 in the first period, and the second goal, on the power play, at 1:09 in the third.
After both goals, the Devil’s Zach Parise came back and scored quickly to even the match. His first was at 8:35 in the first shortly after a Devils power play had ended. Parise’s second came at 4:39 in the third.
The game was played much like a chess match between two teams with similar styles. Ryan Suter discussed the teams styles.
“I think they (the Devils) sit back a little more than we do,” he noted. “We want to go after them and try to make stuff happen and they kind of sit back and wait for us to make the mistake so that’s where we are different. It’s tough because they are so patient.”
For someone who likes defensive hockey, quality goal tending, and physical play the game was all that and more. It was easily one of the best games this year from a spectator standpoint.
The Devils, who have been hampered by injuries, lost Dainius Zubrus after only nine shifts when he was hit in the leg with a Kevin Klein slap shot that sent him hobbling to the bench. After the game, he wasn’t sure if he would continue with the team to Dallas or return to New Jersey for evaluation.
Both teams officially had 28 shots but the Predators had 34 additional attempts that were misses or blocks while the Devils had only 19.
Both goaltenders were on their ‘A’ game, each stopping 26 of 28 shots for the contest. Devil’s goalie Marty Brodeur came into the game needing one shut out to tie Terry Sawchuck’s record of 103. Those wanting to see a record were quickly disappointed when Arnott scored early in the first period.
The Predators continued to improve their special teams play going one of two on the power play and stopping both Devils chances on the penalty kill.
Agitator Jordin Tootoo played a disciplined game in spite of being whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the first period. The Devils were trying to draw him into a fight for most of the contest.
“I’m a lot better player out on the ice than I am in the penalty box,” Tootoo related. “Peters plays five minutes a game and the trade off is not there in our favor. I told him many timesthat I’m a way better player than he is and I’m better off out on the ice.”
Coach Barry Trotz put this week’s games in perspective, “They (the Devils) have been on a roll the last ten games, so you had the two hottest teams (Sharks and Devils) and they both played extremely well and we had to play extremely well against both teams to get points.
“They play a really structured system,” Trotz continued. “We haven’t seen that in a while, as much structure, the way they play, and it was actually good for us to play a team where we have to be a little more patient and work for every inch because they don’t give you a lot.”
Since losing six games in a row early in the season, the Predators have gone 9-3 and have won their last four games. They currently sit in tenth place in the Western Conference, one point out of a playoff position and only five points behind the division leading Chicago Blackhawks.
The Pres schedule does not offer much relief in the next few days. Division rival, Columbus comes to the Sommet center for a Saturday night game and the Detroit Red Wings follow in a Versus televised contest at 6 p.m. Monday.
Post game video from both team’s players and coaches available at PredsOnTheGlass.com.