Barry Trotz joked that “it’s the Predators’ way” to keep things exciting, such as when they blow a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes of regulation and get extended to overtime.
That’s exactly what they did Thursday against Phoenix before an ‘entertained’ crowd of 15,970 at Bridgestone Arena.
Likewise, it is custom for Trotz and his staff to look for offense in unlikely places given that there rarely are obvious options.
Thus at the first opportunity to end a shootout, the choice for the third shooter was David Legwand, a player who had just completed his 33rd straight game without a goal scored. Legwand delivered and secured for the Predators a 4-3 shootout victory and the accompanying two points in the standings.
“If you look at all of our shootouts, Leggy’s been – a lot of times – the clutch guy, the guy who’s kept things alive when we were down and when we needed that goal. … I just felt that he was going to be clutch again, and he was.”
The victory, combined with a Calgary loss to the New York Islanders gave Nashville, which started the day in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, an eight-point cushion over ninth place with seven games to play.
Legwand did not even have a shot in the 65 minutes of regulation and overtime that preceded the shootout. He had converted three of his previous seven chances in shootouts this season, though.
When he beat Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov through the pads, he tied Martin Erat for the team lead in coversions (four) and game-deciding attempts (two).
“Any way that I can help out is great,” Legwand said. “… (Bryzgalov) has seen a lot of pucks in the shootout and he’s done a pretty good job this year. They are a tough team to beat.”
Phoenix came into the night with a league-best 12 shootout victories (no other team had more than nine) and its shooters had connected on nearly four out of every 10 attempts. Its recent nine-game win streak, which ended Tuesday at Chicago, included five shootout victories.
The Coyotes got the game to overtime when Wojtek Wolski and Keith Yandle erased a two-goal Nashville lead in a span of 2:35 late in the third period. The Predators had been in front 3-1 since 9:28 of the second, when defenseman Dan Hamhuis pumped in the last of three straight.
“I think we can manage to play a little better and a little stronger (with the lead) and push when teams are down and we are up,” Marcel Goc, who had two assists, said. “We’ve got to make it easy on ourselves.”
Then again, that seriously would diminish the entertainment value.
• Goalie Pekka Rinne started for the eighth straight game, which matched his longest streak of the season.
He is 7-1-0 in the current stretch, which also equals what he did from Nov. 12-25. The first time he won seven straight before he lost. This time he won six straight, lost and then rebounded with the victory over Phoenix, in which me made 31 saves and stopped two of three chances in the shootout.
• Patric Hornqvist had his third multi-point game (one goal, one assist) since the Olympic break. His goal was his 29th and tied him with J.P. Dumont for the fourth-highest total in franchise history. Jason Arnott set the team record last season with 33.
• With the victory, Nashville improved to 91 points. Four times previously the Predators finished with 91 or more, and all four resulted in a playoff berth.
The 2003-04 and 2007-08 teams each finished with exactly 91, so with one more point this year’s team will reach the third-highest total in franchise history.
• Arnott (head) missed his third straight game due to injury. Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (lower body) was out for the 10th in a row, and forward Joel Ward (upper body) missed his second straight.