In a game that could only be described as a trap game, the Nashville Predators outlasted the Florida Panthers in overtime by a 3-2 score.The Predators frankly survived the game in the Litter Box at Sunrise to go to 94 points with the win.
After a scoreless first period, the Predators took a 1-0 lead on David Legwand's 11th goal of the season, his first goal in 84 days. Welcome back to the scoring column, David. You have been away for far too long.
The remainder of the period remained scoreless as Dan Ellis made some solid saves to keep the Panthers off the board. Ellis was strong in net, and was especially solid in fending off three Panthers power play opportunities.
The third period saw the Panthers come out flying and putting pressure on the Predators in the defensive zone. The pressure put the Predators back on their heels and gave the Panthers great scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Predators, the Panthers were able to turn the pressure into goals.
Keith Ballard tied the game for the Cats as he was able to get the puck past Ellis at 3:12 of the third. The Panthers continued to press the attack and Stephen Weiss put the Panthers up 2-1 with a deflection past Ellis at 5:53 of the period. Two goals in under three minutes and the Panthers pressure was overwhelming the Predators.
As the period continued, the Predators seemed unable to muster much of an attack. When the Predators did get a quality chance, Panther netminder Scott Clemmensen was able to turn aside the threat. This game had the appearance of an opportunity that would be lost by the Predators, thus tightening the race in the Western Conference.
The momentum would swing back to the Predators at 16:53 of the period as Patric Hornqvist notched his 30th goal with a shot from the right board that beat Clemmensen to tie the game. Hornqvist continues to shine as he scored a timely goal for the Predators to take momentum away from the Panthers.
The game would remain scoreless for the rest of the third period. An important point in the books for the Predators, but the all important second point was hanging in the balance.
That precious second point would be secured just one minute into the overtime period and on the first shot of the extra frame. Francis Buillon launched a shot that cleanly beat Clemmensen for the game winning goal, and the Predators skated away with the two points.
One can look at this game and say the Predators stole two points; that they didn't play with a lot of jump for most of the game; that they just didn't look good. True, to a point. The aspect that is so very positive for the Predators is that they won a game with a depleted lineup. Missing were Jason Arnott, Joel Ward, and Marty Erat, all vital cogs to this team. Young players were called upon to step in to prominent roles and contribute quality minutes. The lines were jumbled, which affected chemistry. This team wasn't hitting on all cylinders.
When it looked as if this game was slipping in to the loss column, this team didn't quit. It would have been easy to fall back on any number of excuses and let this game go in to the tank. They didn't do this. They kept pushing. They didn't relent. They showed some heart.
Key players out of the lineup meant that others had to step up to secure a win. David Legwand, you have been invisible for a long time. Tonight, you stepped up with a critical goal. Hornqvist continued his strong play. Frankie Buillon contributed with the game winning goal to go along with his continued solid play on the blue line.
Florida had nothing to lose in the game tonight. The Predators took their best shot and persevered. They showed some resiliency and heart. This is the mark of a team that believes in itself.
With the win, the Predators go to 94 points and remain if 5th place in the West. Detroit has 91 in 6th; L.A. has 90 in 7th; and Colorado has 89 in 8th. One can see how important the points are to this team.
The rest of the regular season schedule will be a test of wills, a test of character. Tonight, the Predators passed the test. The next one comes tomorrow night against L.A., and they won't get any easier. This is the time to reach down deep and call up what it takes to win.
This is the time for heart and character to shine through.