No one could say exactly what was on his mind.
Not that it mattered. When the Florida Panthers called timeout with 2:07 remaining, every one of the Nashville Predators’ players and coaches shared a common thought but none dared express it.
“You can’t say ‘shutout’ on the bench,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “But we definitely wanted to get it.”
Not long after, as the final seconds ran off the clock, the crowd of 16,128 at Bridgestone Arena roared in full-throated approval of Anders Lindback’s first career shutout, a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
It was the Predators’ fourth shutout of the season, their fifth victory in the last six games and their seventh straight with at least a point. It also made the 22-year-old Swede the sixth goalie in franchise history to hold an opponent scoreless.
“It’s always big when you have a shutout,” Lindback said. ‘It’s my first in the NHL so it feels a bit special. It’s a good feeling.”
Pekka Rinne had the previous three this season and Nashville’s last eight overall — the longest such streak in franchise history.
To get this one, the 70th all-time by the Predators, Lindback made just 22 saves, which was at least eight fewer than Rinne made in any of his three. He faced just six shots in each of the first two periods and 10 in the third.
Along the way, though, there were some timely stops and one particularly creative one in the final period, which he made with his facemask.
“I wasn’t able to catch it, so I figured it was just better to stick my head there,” Lindback said. “It just happened.”
He did all of that opposite the most accomplished goaltender in franchise history, Tomas Vokoun, now in his fourth season with the Panthers.
The Predators got to Vokoun, who two days earlier notched his 41st career shutout, with first-period goals by defensemen Suter and Shea Weber. They capped the scoring with an empty-net, power-play goal by forward Joel Ward.
“[Vokoun] is a tremendous goaltender, as we know,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s probably the first star goaltender — and maybe the first star we had here.”
Lindback is well on his way to becoming the next.
He came into the contest with eight starts overall, including three straight. Only once in those contests did he fail to help the team earn a point (a 5-4 loss Nov. 7 at Anaheim) but he had allowed at least two goals in each of those contests.
His record is now 6-1-2 in 12 total appearances. Among all Nashville goalies, only Rinne got to six wins faster (10 games).
“I thought the guys did a good job — they were very workmanlike,” Trotz said. “We got a good start and played very disciplined. I think they wanted to help him get a shutout.”
Not that anyone was willing to say so — until the game actually was over, that is.
“It’s awesome,” Suter said. “When [Florida] called timeout there at the end, we said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s bear down for him.’”
• Jordin Tootoo delivered arguably the biggest hit in franchise history when he thumped Florida forward Michael Frolik in the neutral zone.
Frolik landed flat on his back with his legs perpendicular to the ice. Moments later he made his way slowly to the bench but remained in the game.
“That was as clean and as hard a hit as you’re going to see in the game,” Trotz said.
Tootoo did end up in the penalty box, though. Florida’s Bryan McCabe took exception to the hit and went after Tootoo, which resulted in both being assessed a minor penalty for roughing.
• The game was the first of three straight at home for the Predators and five in a span of eight days.
With that in mind, Trotz used his forwards liberally as each played at least 12 minutes.
“We’re in a stretch now … that’s going to be pretty taxing,” Trotz said. “So, I was sort of happy to go with four lines.”