Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis looked like the best defensive pairing in the NHL on Saturday night in Boston – and they’re headed home happy.
Josi tallied twice to tie the NHL lead for goals by a defenseman, while Ellis dominated the overtime session before scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 Predators victory over the Bruins. The result gives Nashville seven of a possible eight points to conclude their four-game road in season-defining fashion.
“It’s a great win for us,” Josi said. “That’s a really good team over there, one of the best in the League, and we wanted to end the road trip on a positive note. It was a huge win for us.”
“It definitely had a hard fought feel to it, playoff type feel to it,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “They’re a good team, they check well, they defend well and we had to go to overtime. It was a great, great hockey game.”
After a scoreless opening frame, the Bruins got the game’s first goal seven-and-a-half minutes into the second stanza, courtesy of Par Lindholm. Fewer than five minutes later, Roman Josi cut through the slot, and with Arvidsson providing a screen, the Preds captain backhanded a shot past Jaroslav Halak to even the score.
But, with less than a minute to play in the middle period, Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead to conclude the frame. The Bruins were 12-0-2 when leading going into the third period.
“They have a good team, and their top line is as dangerous as anybody in the League,” Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “You know it’s a good team, but I think we started the game really well and defended really well all night long. It was a hard-fought battle.”
For the third time on their trip, the Predators refused to go away quietly. First, Filip Forsberg tallied the important tying goal when he crammed the puck through the pads of Halak at 7:35. Thirty-five seconds later, Josi topped his individual effort from earlier in the game.
The defenseman charged into the zone on a partial breakaway but was met by a challenging Halak way out from his crease. Josi blocked the goaltender’s clearing attempt, however, and spun at the half wall to fire the puck into the open net.
“He was awesome,” Laviolette said of Josi. “He’s definitely at the front of the rope trying to pull us in the right direction, so tonight was another example of that.”
The Bruins still had an answer up their sleeve, as Bergeron got his second of the night with 65 seconds left in regulation and Halak pulled for the extra attacker. In the Bruins’ 10th overtime home game of the season, Ellis took over. The blueliner kept the Bruins off the scoreboard until the four-minute mark of OT when he jumped off the bench and one-timed a feed from Ryan Johansen for a 4-3 victory.
“The lane opened up, and a heck of a play by [Johansen] recognizing it,” Ellis said. “Good sauce play, and all in all, just a good game for us.”
When this road trip started on Monday in New York City, the Predators weren’t anywhere near where they wanted to be in the standings. They’re still not there yet, but they’re seven points closer, and that leaves a good feeling as they pack up to head back to Nashville.
“It was a huge road trip for us,” Josi said. “Nobody on this team was happy with the way we were playing and the position we were in. We’re still not happy where we are in the standings, so we’ve got to keep pushing, but that was definitely a huge road trip.”
“We’re still in a dogfight,” Rinne said. “We still have to win more games and put together some streaks, but at least this is a huge road trip against good teams. We’re just looking forward to a little break at Christmastime, but we still have one more game at home.”
That final contest before a three-day break comes Monday against Arizona, and the holiday will be even happier if they can find success once more.
“It’s a good four games for us, but we’ve got one more job,” Ellis said. “We can’t let our foot off the gas. We have to get the two points at the next game, get a bit of a break, kind of reset and go from there.”
Viktor Arvidsson returned to the Nashville lineup after missing four weeks with a lower-body injury. Mikael Granlund also dressed after sitting out the past four games with a lower-body injury.
In addition to extending his goal streak to a career-high four games, Josi now has four multi-goal games this season, the most among NHL defensemen.
With their four-game excursion now complete, the Predators return home to host Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, the final game before the three-day Christmas break.