Older players–but new to the Nashville Predators this season–helped the team from Music City to a 4-3 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rare offensive contributions from the recently-signed, veteran portion of the Predators locker room–along with free-agent pickup Carter Hutton’s dazzling saves–gave Nashville their first road win of 2014.
The victory was also the Predators first in the shootout; they were previously zero for five in the skills competition.
Boosting offense might not have always been the plan when Nashville signed multiple, long-time NHLers in the offseason, but helping to shape the team and provide leadership was.
“Obviously it’s one thing that we felt we needed,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve got young guys up front with Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Taylor Beck and people like that. So one of the things we wanted to do was fill our locker room with good veteran players that have a lot of character, a lot of varied experienced, maybe some of them are a little more ‘role players’ if you will, but still that’s what we wanted and needed.”
One of the free agents signed to bring more character to Nashville’s locker room scored midway through the first period to tie the game at one.
Eric Nystrom tipped a puck past Flyers netminder Steve Mason at 10:57 and David Legwand’s power play marker gave the visiting team the lead after one period.
Newly-acquired veterans Nystrom and Matt Cullen have fit well in the Predators system, fulfilling the multiple requests they were asked when added to the club.
Cullen’s wrister in the shootout staved off elimination for Predators who were a miss away from folding in the shootout again.
“It usually takes a little while fitting in, but as the season goes on you get more and more comfortable every day,” Cullen said. “You have to help it along some times. In this league things have to happen quickly, so you have to do your part. But it’s often a gradual thing.”
The Predators bench boss has been pleased with the many different contributions brought by the new members of the club, but he won’t turn away their assistance in the offensive game like they gave tonight either.
“More than anything they bring a level of confidence, professionalism and a level of leadership that only time and wisdom–and all those things you do in the National Hockey League–can bring to your locker room,” Trotz said. “Ownership allowed us to do that this summer and it allowed us to put some of that back into our room. It can be a fine balance between being too young and then you might not have the right number of people to help lead. And when you have that, you also allow your farm system to mature and develop players rather than trying to push them through before they’re really ready. We needed more leadership, so we got it through these guys.”
Another Preds free agent signee from this summer also played a huge role for Nashville through 65 minutes and the shootout.
Goaltender Carter Hutton stopped 27 of 30 shots and made five stops in the shootout to take the Predators off the schnide in the one-on-one competition.
Hutton’s diving, glove save starting from behind his own net to stop a wide-open Michael Raffl in the crease might just go down as the save of the season by a Predators netminder.
Another piece of evidence that the new faces in Nashville might finally be settling in.
“It’s always an adjustment, but that’s kind of part of the game,” Cullen said. “If you play long enough you have to end up moving around quite a bit, so it’s important to put your head down and get to work. It may take awhile, but once you get used to a new team, it can be a great thing.”