Down three goals entering the third period? No problem.
Austin Watson tallied twice and Filip Forsberg ended it on a penalty shot in overtime as the Nashville Predators roared back to defeat the St. Louis Blues by a 4-3 final on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
It’s the fifth consecutive game in which Nashville has seen overtime and the result gives them points in 15 of their last 16 games to hold onto first place in the Central Division.
After the Blues went up by a 3-0 score through 40 minutes of play, Nashville scored three times in the final frame to force overtime before winning it, certainly not the easiest night to explain when it was all said and done.
“I don’t know if you can,” Watson said of summing up the evening. “I don’t think there’s a recipe for that other than just continuing to work and not getting discouraged. We were frustrated by the effort that we put out for the first two periods, but this group never backs off and never just gives up. We kept pushing, were able to get a couple to go for us and tie up and Fil had a great penalty shot in overtime.”
“More than anything, between the second and third period, we talked about things and put it on the table,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought the guys really responded. There wasn’t a question going out into the third period that we could win a hockey game. I don’t think there was a question for them. Once we got a goal, we really started getting things rolling in the right direction.”
Jay Bouwmeester’s slap shot gave the Blues a 1-0 lead late in the first and then Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz both beat Pekka Rinne in the second stanza for a 3-0 advantage after 40 minutes.
But the Predators came out for the third with a renewed sense of urgency, and at the 9:06 mark, Calle Jarnkrok slammed home a rebound past former Preds goaltender Carter Hutton to give Nashville life. Then, at 14:33, Watson finished off a shorthanded rush for his sixth of the season to pull the home team to within one. But he wasn’t done.
Less than two minutes later, Watson batted the puck out of the air and just over the goal line, and after a short review, referee Brad Watson pointed to center ice to confirm Nashville’s tying tally.
Then, in the extra session, Forsberg was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded and penalty shot, the perfect opportunity to beat a former teammate for the winning goal.
“It’s huge,” Forsberg said of the win. “That’s what this team is all about. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first line or third line or fourth line or second line, everyone contributes, and it’s great to be a part of that.”
Watson’s effort in particular – someone known more for his shot blocking than his goal scoring – brought the house down, particularly his second strike, only the second time in his career he’s converted twice in the same regular-season game. And it’s performances like that from unlikely candidates that Nashville will need not only now in a tight division race, but in the springtime, especially.
“The division is so tight and that’s a really good hockey team,” Watson said. “They’re playing really well. Hutton is playing awesome for them. It looked like he was going to get them all there for a while and was great back there. Any time you can beat a division opponent, especially one that’s up there in the standings with you, it’s a huge win.”
Come On Back, Now:
The second intermission in the Predators locker room could have included shouting and stick breaking. Down 3-0 against a Central Division rival and coming off a period that saw the Preds outshot 16-3? Would you have blamed them?
But instead, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said he simply talked to his team. They nodded their heads in assurance.
And then they responded.
Three goals within a span of less than seven minutes in the third period salvaged a point for the Preds, and then an exclamation point from Filip Forsberg in overtime sealed Nashville’s 11th win in their last 16 tries, with an even more impressive point streak – 15 of 16 contests – to go along.
“We talked,” Laviolette said. “I yelled a couple times in the past four games, so we just talked. I guess I talked. It was more just a message of some reality. We didn’t play hard enough in the second period. We didn’t have enough energy. We didn’t do things the way we are capable of. As I’m talking, you can see them shaking their heads, ‘yes,’ so they know that, too. They’re an honest group in there. They know they didn’t play to their capabilities. It was more a conversation that anything else. It ended with the fact that we could win the hockey game.”
After a road trip that saw them collect six out of a possible eight points in four games over six days, the Predators returned home to begin a four-game set in the Music City, and they couldn’t have started in more dramatic fashion.
“We talked about it in the second intermission, just throwing that away and just focusing on just being a whole lot better in all areas of the game and I think we did that,” forward Colton Sissons said. “We had to stick with it for a little bit. We didn’t get the first one until close to the ten-minute mark, but it showed a lot of character in here. We talk about coming back in games that we’re not playing that well and I’m just really proud of the guys’ effort in the third.”
Ryan Ellis recorded his 100th career assist on Austin Watson’s first goal.
Nashville has now won four-straight games at home over St. Louis, outscoring the Blues 18-7.
Pekka Rinne is now two wins away from 300 in his career.
Nashville continues their home stretch on Thursday night when the Calgary Flames come to town, followed by a date on Saturday against Detroit before hosting Ottawa on Monday.