The Nashville Predators had an opportunity last night to help themselves out, and they seized it. The Predators claimed a 2-1 road win over the Vancouver Canucks, the team currently holding the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Nashville’s regulation win gives them 53 points and puts them eight points behind the Canucks and Minnesota Wild–the teams holding the two wild card spots with 61 points each.
Although lots of hype surrounded new Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto’s first action for Nashville, the heroes of the night were goaltender Carter Hutton and forward Craig Smith.
The Canucks had six minutes of power play time in the first period alone, but Hutton’s poise in net stymied Vancouver in the contest’s first frame.
Hutton extended a personal four-game winning streak with 33 saves, including a crucial stop on a Chris Higgins breakaway late in the third period with Nashville up 2-1.
Trailing 1-0 going into the third period–and with only 15 shots to their credit–the Predators offense needed some kind of spark.
Less than four minutes into the third, Craig Smith continued his career-year by lighting the lamp for a team-leading 16th time (Smith had four goals all of last season).
New energy was evident throughout Nashville’s bench after they managed to tie the contest, and Nick Spaling’s power play tally at the 12:38 mark put the away team in position to pull out a gutsy win.
Hutton’s suddenly red-hot play and an excellent third period by the Predators were enough to claim the two points for Nashville and help them move up the standings a little more.
The team from Music City is right back to action tonight when they take on the Calgary Flames at 8 p.m. (CST).
We’ll have lineup news and updates as the day progresses.