Barry Trotz does not watch shootouts.
“I’m looking up at the stands,” he said. “It’s just a pet peeve of mine. I turn my back on what’s happening, and the crowd will let me know what’s going on.”
Even so, the Nashville Predators saw one coming and his vision likely paid dividends when the Predators earned a much-needed two points with a 2-1 shootout victory over division rival St. Louis on Saturday.
The first five skaters — three for St. Louis, two for Nashville — failed to convert before Predators center David Legwand ended the contest with a successful attempt.
“We had the feeling it was going to happen in the next couple of games.” Trotz said. “We hadn’t practiced it a lot, but the last few days [last] week, every practice we did a little bit of that.”
Nashville had been to a shootout just once in its first 31 games and it lost that one to the New Jersey Devils way back on Oct. 15. Only once in the previous 12 outings, in fact, had a game gone beyond regulation.
Typically, it happens much more frequently.
In the six seasons that the shootout has been used as a last-ditch tiebreaker, the Predators averaged just more than 10 a season and were successful more often than not (35 wins, 26 losses).
That Nashville won, was unusual within the bounds of this season.
The Predators improved to 3-4 in overtime/shootout contests this season thanks to back-to-back victories. The first was a 4-3 overtime triumph at Columbus on Dec. 8, also the first of the current straight overall victories.
Among Western Conference teams only Anaheim and Minnesota have lost more (five each). Nashville and St. Louis were two of only three Western Conference teams (Calgary was the other) that prior to Saturday had not won in a shootout this season.
“Obviously, you want to win in regulation,” Legwand said. “We should have won in regulation, and we have to manage the game a little better there at the end.”
Martin Erat broke a scoreless tie when he scored with 7:28 play in regulation, but St. Louis, which had won eight of its previous 10, forced overtime with a power play goal with 3:52 to go.
After being outshot 40-20 during regulation, the Predators registered the only three shots of the overtime period but failed to get a goal. That led to the shootout, where the Predators gained a point and closed to within two of St. Louis for third place in the division.
“We needed [Saturday] night,” captain Shea Weber said. “Now we have to carry on.”
Legwand had converted just five of 16 shootout attempts in his career and his last successful attempt was March 25, 2010. That one beat goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and clinched a victory over Phoenix.
He was sent out this time because Trotz and his staff looked for tendencies in Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.
“You kind of watch before, you pre-scout,” Legwand said. “That’s what they select the guys on. It’s obviously always nice to score one and to have the opportunity.”