There was only 1:43 remaining in the game on Thursday night. The Predators offense had sputtered the entire game, leading to a two-goal deficit, and it looked as if they would lose to the often hopeless Columbus Blue Jackets.
Coach Barry Trotz called a time out and gathered his team at the bench. What happened in the next 1:43 of regulation was remarkable. Mike Fisher won the face off in the offense zone and seven seconds later the puck was in the net. Shortly afterwards, Fisher once again won the face off in the offense zone with only 20 seconds remaining. The combination of a power play, plus the extra skater for a pulled Pekka Rinne was enough for the Predator’s to score a second goal and send the game into overtime with only 13 seconds to spare. To wrap up the improbable comeback, Colin Wilson scored the game winner 1:45 into overtime to give the Predators a huge Central Division victory.
The significance of Thursday’s game is more than the two points for the win (although those may come in handy later in the year). The Predators rallied, dug deep and clawed out of what should have been a sure loss. The victory also stopped the team’s downward slide they have been on since November 19th. During that stretch, the Preds had lost seven of nine, but that was all forgotten after Thursday’s victory.
The slump that Nashville has been in saw the scoring as mostly nonexistent while their goal tending and defense has been mediocre. The first 58 minutes and 17 seconds of the game against the Blue Jackets was indicative of a team that had lost its confidence. The remaining 1:43 plus overtime was played with the same intensity that had the Predators in 4th place in the Western Conference less than 30 days ago. The Predators refused to lose and found a way to win. The team had four different players notch goals and three different players had multiple point efforts.
If the Preds wish to aim momentum going back in the positive direction, they made leaps in that direction on Thursday night. The ability to reverse course and steal a win speaks well to the mental toughness of this team. Pekka Rinne put together a respectable performance, stopping 21 of 24 shots. In addition to the key face-offs Mike Fisher won that led to the Nashville goals, he ended the night having won 16 of the 19 draws he took. Nashville also went 1 for 1 on the power play and killed their one penalty kill situation of the night. Doing the little things right, such as winning face offs and being effective on special teams, are just some of the necessary components to being successful in the NHL.
The Predator’s upcoming schedule appears favorable for the next two games with home tilts against Anaheim and Calgary. They have the ability to build on their momentum against two of the Western Conference’s down teams, before facing another Central foe in the Detroit Red Wings. All in all, the key will be to play more like the last two minutes and less like the earlier fifty eight.