The Nashville Predators overcame several demons on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena in a thrilling 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, a team that they had not beaten since December 5, 2005.
The Preds had also not shown their usual dominance on home ice nor have they played consistently, with resilience, overcoming deficits in close games this season. All that changed in Smashville against the star-studded Capitals.
For 55 minutes and 14 seconds, the game was a back and forth affair with both teams skating hard but not being able to put the puck in the net. The Capitals drew first blood on a goal by Troy Brouwer that seemed like it could have been the only goal of the game at the time.
Pekka Rinne described the feeling after the Caps' scored. "When it is that kind of game, a tight checking game, with both goalies playing well, the meaning of a goal like that is magnified a little bit. Right away, when they scored that goal, it’s a disappointing feeling when you do everything you can and it’s in the back of your net."
The Predators responded quickly on with a goal by Marty Erat off of a perfect feed from Shea Weber, 28 seconds later, to tie the game 1-1.
Mike Fisher said that there was not a letdown after the Caps goal, "We had five minutes left and we were getting some chances so when they got a goal like that we knew we just had to go get one and we did."
As the clock ticked down, and the game looking like it would head to overtime, Erat fed the puck to Colin Wilson who banged home the game winner on a diving play with 24.3 ticks left on the clock.
Wilson was ecstatic aftert the game, "I had two guys on me. Well, they were a little bit behind me, but they hooked me up. I just wanted to do a Bobby Orr finish I guess."
Fisher explained the comeback win, "It was huge. For them to get that one late after being back and forth all game, we needed a boost and it was a timely goal by Marty on a great play by Webby and then we caught them on another one a few minutes later and that was the game. It was a great way to finish. We didn't give up. It was huge."
Fisher played one of his better games of the year. He had plenty of chances early in the game with five shots on goal, including a short-handed breakaway that Tomas Vokoun reeled in. "I was trying to shoot the puck more. I haven't been shooting enough and I got some chances tonight, so I have to keep shooting. They made a decent save on the break-away. Hopefully, I'll get one the next game."
Shea Weber's empty netter, off the face off, five seconds after Wilson's game-winner, was icing on the cake and a reward for a strong defensive game, where he and Ryan Suter held the Caps top line to eight shots and no goals.
Trotz was pleased with the defensive effort. "We got Suter and Weber out against him (Ovechkin), that’s probably where it starts. We just kept him to the outside as much as we could. He tried a few things one-on-one and we did a good job against him."
The goalie battle between Rinne and ex-Pred Vokoun was outstanding as both were perfect until the last five minutes of the contest. Rinne stopped 39 of 40 shots, including numerous highlight-reel type saves at close range. Vokoun, was almost as sharp, stopping 28 of 30 Predator shots.
"When you are trading chances with a really good team like that, the odds are against you unless you have a guy like Pekka."
The Predators had played marginally at home going 2-2-2 entering the game, so the win put the Predators over the .500 mark at Bridgestone Arena and moved them to 9-5-3 overall which put then in fifth place in the Western Conference.
Fisher summed up the win. "It was huge. That was a really good hockey team. There are parts of our game that we still need to improve. That being said, that was a huge win for us. We have a big week here, and we need to win these at home.
The Predators return to the Bridgestone ice on Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Go here for POTG discount tickets and use the offer code preds for the game against the Leafs as well as all remaining games.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass