Power Play: Predators beat Avalanche in overtime, stay on top in Central Division
Nashville, TN — In their first game back off the All-Star break, the Nashville Predators (31-10-5) saw two separate leads evaporate against the Colorado Avalanche (20-18-11) before Craig Smith’s breakaway goal in overtime gave Nashville a 4-3 overtime victory.
Inability to convert early chances meant Nashville had to dig out of a hole, again
The Predators did enough out of the gates to drop an opening stunner early in the contest, but converting on those chances is key when playing teams like the Avalanche. Even with an early handful of opportunities, including a power play, Nashville couldn’t seem to bury the opening marker.
Unfortunately for them, Colorado decided to grab a lead of their own.
Firing a shot from the point, Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond found his shot tipped by forward Cody McLeod directly in front of Predators goaltender Carter Hutton for the 1-0 lead with 8:08 left in the first period.
"We didn’t like our first period," said Predators defenseman Roman Josi. "I thought [Colorado] had a better jump than us and they outplayed us in the first."
Nashville is no stranger to trailing first in a game. In 25 of its 46 games, the opposition has scored first. Having a 14-9-2 record in those game, though, is good for second best in the entire league when trailing first. While it’s not an ideal scenario, the Predators are accustomed to finding their own ways of turning games around.
"We have a lot of confidence in our team," said Predators forward Colin Wilson. "I don’t think [Colorado] scoring the first goal is going to make us lose our confidence. I think the guys did a good job getting back into it for a big win."
Rare moment of letting the momentum slip away
There aren’t many times that Nashville has trouble holding on to sustained momentum once they take a lead. In a rare case of the opposite, the Predators found themselves trying to knock down Colorado’s front door already up by a goal in the second period, only to see an instant reversal of fortune play out.
After Colin Wilson’s power play marker with 6:39 left in the second period, Nashville increased their shot total to 23 over the 10 shots on net by the Avalanche. As the Predators pressed to try and grab a two-goal lead, Colorado broke free out of their defensive zone and aimed for a chance of their own.
"We knew they weren’t just going to roll over," said Wilson. "We had to keep going."
With Matt Duchene streaking into the offensive zone, he found a trailing Jarome Iginla for the tying goal to knot the score at two as the end of the second approached. The goal seemingly deflated Nashville’s energy for the remainder of the period
"I felt like were really doing a good job in the offensive zone," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. "It was just a quick transition play in the neutral zone and it turns around. [Iginla] has probably scored a lot of goals from there. He’s got a great shot. I felt like we were on a march and we were clicking and then that’s how quick it can turn."
Outplaying Colorado but unable to put them away
The Avalanche may not have one of the better records in the NHL, but Nashville had its hands full trying to send Colorado home with a loss in regulation. Even that just wasn’t meant to be.
"I thought in the second and third [period] our game changed," said Laviolette. "We really started to get in that attack mode again, press the offensive zone and forecheck really well. We created turnovers and from that came scoring opportunities. [Varlamov] was sharper. He gave [Colorado] an opportunity to get a point and possibly win a game."
Nashville grabbed a 3-2 lead after a Filip Forsberg goal 32 seconds into the third period. Although firing 15 shots on net and countless other ones in the vicinity, the Predators couldn’t put away Colorado and eventually allowed the tying goal with only 36 seconds remaining.
Credit Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov for keeping them in the game, with some of the more talented saves the Predators have seen all season. However, it’s not the first time this season they have allowed an opposing team to tie the game in regulation.
"We keep finding ways to win," Wilson said. "Obviously we don’t want to give up that goal late in the game. We just want to win in regulation. I think our overtime record has got to be pretty good. It just kind of shows how much our team wants to win."
Luckily for Nashville, Craig Smith ended the game less than three minutes into overtime, securing two more points for the Predators.
Mike Ribeiro — Three assists on the night including the helper leading to Smith’s overtime winner. He’s continuing to do everything right and does it again against the Avalanche.
Craig Smith — Although he scored only one goal on the night, it turned out to be the one that mattered. Taking a feed up center ice, Smith cashed in on a breakaway send the Predators to their eighth straight home win.
Nick Holden — He was right where he needed to be in the waning minutes of regulation. His only goal of the night tied the game for Colorado with 36 seconds remaining in the third period.