Juuse Saros stopped all 43 shots he faced and the Nashville Predators defeated the Vegas Golden Knights by a 1-0 final on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. It’s Nashville’s third consecutive win overall and their first victory in franchise history against the expansion club from Vegas.
Nashville’s lone goal on the night came from Kevin Fiala exactly eight minutes into the third period, as Saros put forth quite possibly his best NHL effort to date to registers his fifth win of the season and third shutout in his last five starts.
“[Saros] was unbelievable tonight,” Predators forward Austin Watson said. “We had some penalty kills there at the end of the second period that really could have changed the game in the wrong direction for us, and we were really able to shut the door with him backstopping it. It was a really good two points.”
The first 40 minutes of the contest were scoreless, but that wouldn’t have been the case if it weren’t for the stellar play of Saros, who stopped 30 Vegas shots through the opening two periods.
Then, midway through the third, P.K. Subban’s shot bounced off the pads of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and right to Fiala, who had a wide-open cage with which to work. Fiala’s shot snuck in under the bar to give Nashville the one and only lead they’d need. The regulation loss was just Vegas’ third since Dec. 1.
“Right now, the second-half is very important to us, to the whole team, to every line,” Fiala said. “We just need to go in and build more chemistry, win more games, and build more confidence.”
The victory also came without the services of three of Nashville’s top players. Forward Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson were absent from the start due to injury, and center Ryan Johansen was forced to leave after taking a hit late in the second period.
But even without most of their aces up front, the Predators found a way, and encouraging sign at the unofficial start of the second half of the campaign.
“It’s what you have to do,” Watson said. “We’re confident. It’s kind of what we talked about all last year during the playoffs. Whoever’s playing, whoever gets the minutes, we’re confident in everybody in this room and we’re going to get the job done. When you’re missing those guys, they’re spectacular and create a lot of offense for us, but we have a lot of good hockey players in here to step up and take those minutes.”
On the coldest night of the winter in Nashville, the goaltending performance in the Preds crease was anything but.
After a shaky start to the season as Pekka Rinne’s backup, Preds goaltender Juuse Saros has posted a 4-0-3 mark in his last seven outings, more than enough to reinstate his confidence and give the Preds a formidable one-two punch in net.
As the bye week arrived last Tuesday, instead of heading off on vacation like the rest of his teammates, Saros made the journey back to Milwaukee to play three more games for the Admirals, with the plan – as Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette explained – of keeping Saros sharp and ready to face the top team in the Western Conference come Tuesday.
It worked out just fine.
“He’s been good for a while now,” Laviolette said of Saros. “He’s been solid, he’s gone down to Milwaukee, he’s played games, he’s been solid down there. Every opportunity he’s gotten in the net he’s looked great. Tonight was just another example of that.”
“Unbelievable,” Fiala said of Saros. “Not just today, he’s been unreal this whole season, Pekka too. They save us games. It’s just great to have and great to know that we have such great goaltenders.”
Saros has blanked the opposition in four of his last six appearances, including three shutouts, but as Saros will tell you, it’s nothing to fuss over.
“I’m just trying to play my own game,” Saros said. “[I’m trying not to] think too much and to go out there, have fun and do the best I can.”
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Preds placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on Injured Reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from AHL Milwaukee.
Preds center Ryan Johansen took a high hit late in the second period and did not return to the game. There was no update on Johansen’s status immediately following the contest.
The 43-save performance tonight from Saros is just three saves off of his career high for a single game.
Nashville’s five-game home stand continues on Thursday night when the Arizona Coyotes come to town, followed by Florida on Saturday night before concluding next Tuesday with Tampa Bay.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report