The Nashville Predators hung on for dear life in the closing minute of their game with the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night and were thrilled to death to get out of town with a 3-2 victory.
Had there been a few more seconds in the game, the outcome could have been totally different as the Predators were gassed and the Avs were fighting hard in the final moments.
It was a classic rope-a-dope by the Avalanche who lulled everyone asleep for fifty-three minutes and then caught on fire for the final portion of the contest. As the clock ticked down, the Avalanche dominated play and kept the puck in the Predators end. The Avs hit pay dirt twice at the end of the game and just fell short of a tying goal as time expired.
The Predators received goals from Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo, and Marty Erat, while Paul Stastny and John-Michael Lyles tallied for Colorado.
Pekka Rinne was the difference maker in the game as he stopped 27 of 29 Colorado shots including a barrage in the third period. Brian Elliot had a decent night, stopping all but three of the 34 Predator shots that he faced.
The Predators and Avs skated end to end as the game opened and actually played fairly evenly until Matt Halischuk found Wilson skating through the slot and sent a pass from behind the net that Wilson flipped past Elliott to give the Preds a 1-0 lead at 15:35.
The Predators out shot the Avalanche 12-9 and led the Corsi 21-19 in the first period.
The second period was a hard one to watch. Neither team appeared to be playing inspired hockey. The Predators were playing good "road game" hockey, containing the Avalanche and not giving them many chances.
The Preds got on the board at 10:20 when Marty Erat sent a pass from the corner to Cody Franson at the blue line who then fired it at the net and Tootoo made a perfect redirect to make it 2-0 Preds.
For the period, the Preds out shot Colorado 18-5 and led the Corsi 25-11. The Predators had back to back power play opportunities but did not convert on three shots.
The intensity level picked up for both teams in the second half of the final period. After a roughing penalty on Cody McLeod, Erat was able to shake loose from a Avs defender and go in and beat Elliott one on one to give the Preds a 3-0 lead at 12:52 which seemed like "game, set, match.
Before the Preds were able to celebrate, 43 seconds later, Stastny was battling with Joel Ward in front of the Preds' net and took a pass from Milan Hejduk and slipped it past Rinne to end the shut out possibility.
The Avalanche continued to keep the puck in the Predators zone and kept heavy pressure on Rinne and scored again on the goalie pull at 18:58 during a major poke-fest on Rinne by three Avs players around the net. Lyles was credited with the goal.
The game was still up in the air down to the last second when Hejduk put a shot on Rinne with less than a second left. The final icing on the cake was David Legwand and Erik Johnson taking coincidental roughing penalties for a scrum behind the net after the game ended.
In the final period, the Avalanche dominated the Predators, outshooting them 14-4 and leading the Corsi by an astounding 29-7 margin.
Coming out of the game, injuries may be a concern as Erat was struck by a Shea Weber slapshot and had to miss a couple of shifts in the second period. More problematic was Jordin Tootoo leaving the game with an "upper body" injury after a collision with John-Michael Lyles with 3:01 left in the second period. Joel Ward and Patric Hornqvist were also shaken up in the final period but were able to return.
The win gave Nashville 94 points and moved them back ahead of Anaheim into sixth place in the Western Conference.
The Predators left immediately after the game and will play Detroit at the Bridgestone Arena in a special 2 p.m. start time on Saturday. Practice is scheduled for Friday at Centennial Sportsplex but it would not be surprising to see it canceled or become an off ice work out or optional skate.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass