Ryan Suter sat on the bench and began to peel the tape from his stick.
Not because he thought the game was over. In fact, it was quite the contrary.
Following 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime in which no goals were scored, and then a spectacular display of goaltending in the early rounds of the shootout, the Nashville Predators’ fifth-year defensemen started to think that he might get called upon for the first time in his career to make an attempt in the tiebreaking procedure. He figured a fresh swath of tape might make a difference.
“I was getting a little nervous there,” Suter said. “(Shootouts) are exciting for everyone, but it’s too bad there has to be a loser when it’s 0-0. When you lose in a shootout, it’s always tough.”
The Predators were the ones who lost this one and, consequently, they also lost a point to the Detroit Red Wings in what officially is classified as a 1-0 defeat before a sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. The verdict was rendered only after the teams went to 11 skaters apiece and goalies Pekka Rinne of Nashville and Jimmy Howard of Detroit stopped 19 of the 22 attempts they faced.
It the longest shootout in Nashville’s history, and the decisive conversion was delivered by Red Wings’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall. Francis Bouillon had an opportunity to extend the thing even farther, but Howard stopped his forehand shot.
The previous Predators’ record of 10 was set earlier this season (Feb. 2) against Phoenix – another game with no goals during regulation or overtime.
“It was a lot of fun,” Howard said. “(Playing) against Pekka … we’ve become friends, playing against each other a lot in the AHL, playing on the (AHL) All-Star team together. … He’s become an old friend of mine, just a great guy. When we play against each other it’s just an absolute battle.”
At the start of the day, Nashville was fifth in the Western Conference standings but – with 91 points – just two ahead of Detroit, which was eighth.
The Red Wings’ fifth straight victory – their longest win streak of the season – cut that margin in half. Yet with the point for getting to overtime, the Predators were guaranteed to be no worse than sixth when the sun rose Sunday.
“It was the kind of game that was just like a playoff game,” Nashville forward J,.P. Dumont said. “We could have been here for a while if it was the playoffs.”
That’s because the shootout is not used to break ties in the postseason.
The league instituted the procedure with the start of the 2005-06 season — Suter’s rookie campaign — and this was the 50th time a Predators’ game had extended to one (they’re 28-22 all-time). It’s likely that it’s also the closest Suter ever has come to being involved.
Two of the 11 shooters Nashville used were defensemen, including Cody Franson, who went sixth — one round after Steve Sullivan matched Todd Bertuzzi’s conversion.
“We usually, before the game, talk about five guys deep and then we go from there,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
In this case, he got down to the likes of Dumont, who’s converted once in three seasons, Patric Hornqvist, who was 0-for-2 for his career (he’s now 0-for-3) and Colin Wilson, who — unlike Suter — actually got his first crack at it.
None converted, but then again neither did Nashville’s shootout stalwarts such as Cal O’Reilly (2-for-4), Martin Erat (4-for-10) or the hero of Thursday’s shootout triumph over Phoenix, David Legwand (4-for-9).
“We had (Howard) a couple times … and he made great saves,” Trotz said. “… When you’re 11 shooters deep, it’s a great goaltending performance from both. It was a great game.”
It certainly had Suter on the edge of his seat.