By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators won their second consecutive game, and third out of the last five games have been won by Nashville in the shootout when they visited the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes.
Pekka Rinne stopped 21 of 22 shots on goal. Joni Pitkanen was the only Cane to beat Rinne, scoring 9:22 into the first period of play.
Nashville went into the second down 1-0 but tied it up early. Jerred Smithson scored his first goal of the season. Jordin Tootoo picked up his sixth assist on the year, Joel Ward his fourth.
Smithson was moved from the fourth line to play with Ward and Tootoo as the shutdown line in David Legwand’s absence. Legwand was hurt Thursday during the first period of the Montreal game when he was hit into the boards by Habs defenseman Roman Hamrlik.
Head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that Smithson stepping into the Legwand role and performed admirably. “Smithson’s line did a fantastic job out against [Eric] Staal’s line. Smithson got our goal on the turnover and that whole line stepped up,” he said, adding, “Smitty was really good. He stepped in Leggy’s role. They were hard to play against. They spent a lot of time in the opposition’s end. They were real strong. They got the big goal and they really deserved that. They were really strong.”
There was no scoring in the third period, though both teams had there chances. Most notably, Sergei Samsanov, called at the end of the second for interference, came out of the penalty box 30 seconds in and had a clean breakaway but was denied by Rinne.
Heading into overtime, the Predators dominated the five minutes of sudden death play. It was Smithson, again, who was applying the most pressure, finding the puck in the slot, but Nashville was just unable to beat Cam Ward.
During the shootout, Jeff Skinner shot first and scored for the Canes. O’Reilly followed for Nashville and also scored. Carolina followed up with Jussi Jokinen, the Predators with Marcel Goc. Neither could capitalize. Patrick O’Sullivan was the third shooter for the Canes. Rinne made the save, but Ward had no answer for Martin Erat who ended the game for Nashville, beating Ward.
After losing five in a row, Nashville has gone 4-1-0 in their last five. Erat says the formula for success is azn easy one. “Just the focus, you know,” he said, “Just trying to play for 60 minutes of the game.”
The win is a big one as the Predators have now claimed four of a possible six points so far on their four game road trip. The Predators now go to Columbus where they face their Central Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this season. To win, Nashville will need to do it without David Legwand or Ryan Suter. Suter did not play against Carolina after reaggravating his knee playing Montreal. Suter has gone back to Nashville because he and his wife are expecting their first child any moment now. The Predators Matthew Lombardi also remains out of the lineup.