Nashville, TN -- The Pittsburgh Penguins (4-4-0) haven't been able to find their offensive prowess yet, but they found enough to give them two critical points in a non-conference battle.
Sending a Phil Kessel shot behind Pekka Rinne early into overtime, Pittsburgh knocked off the Nashville Predators (6-1-1) by a final score of 2-1.
Building momentum early in the game
Nashville needed to make an impact early against the Penguins, however it happened in a way that wasn't really what they were looking for.
Five minutes into the first period, Austin Watson swung behind the Pittsburgh net and planted what seemed to be an inadvertent hit on Penguins defenseman and puck-carrier Brian Dumoulin. As Dumoulin released the puck, Watson and Dumoulin met shoulder-to-shoulder, snapping Dumoulin into the boards to the right of him and down to the ice.
The result? Watson was levied a five-minute major penalty and Pittsburgh -- who has plenty of offensive weapons, even if they are having trouble scoring right now -- had an early opportunity to get the lead on Nashville.
"I didn't expect any call, I was skating back to reload into the zone and then I saw [the ref] put his arm up," said Watson. "You don't want to see anybody get hurt, but at the time he had an opportunity to look and see that I was coming. I hit his shoulder and at the last second the body position must have changed a little bit. Unfortunately, you don't want to see that, but I thought it was pretty clean."
Luckily for the Predators, their penalty kill unit has been tremendous to start the season and they subsequently killed off Pittsburgh's five-minute power play.
Was it a momentum-building penalty kill? Absolutely. Nashville may not have found the back of the net afterwards, but that's one of those moments that can make or break a game.
"Our penalty killers did a great job," said Watson. "You never want to start a game out like that, killing five minutes worth of penalty kill. It was awesome, they did a great job and I thought we kind of rolled from there."
Falling behind first
In seven straight games Nashville scored the first goal of the contest, helping to product a 6-1-0 record out of the gate.
That came to an end Saturday night as -- after a penalty on forward Evgeni Malkin -- the Penguins capitalized on a three-on-two late in the second period to break a scoreless tie.
It's the first time all season that the Predators have had to play from behind, snapping a franchise-record of seven straight games to open the scoring at the start of a season.
"Obviously you want to score first every time," said Watson. "I thought we did a good job battling back. We're pretty resilient, just stuck with it there and got one late to tie it up."
Playing with a lead has given Nashville that margin-of-error cushion, however that was unfortunately absent on Saturday night.
Luckily for Nashville, it was a manageable one-goal deficit that the Predators were able to equalize later in regulation.
Earning points whenever possible
The one thing I've learned so far about this 2015-16 Nashville Predators squad is that they find points with nearly every opportunity they have.
Even Saturday night against the Penguins, Nashville scored to tie the contest with less than ten minutes remaining in the third period and forced the game to overtime. That's the type of team we've seen through the first eight games.
"It's huge," said Ekholm. "I certainly think deserved more than one point today, but we'll take the one point and move forward. It's a tough break. Three-on-three we're going to lose some, we're going to win some. That's just how it goes. It's a big one point moving forward."
With the point, Nashville jumped the Dallas Stars into first place in the Central Division -- where the top six are all separated by four points -- and, more importantly, the Western Conference..
BONUS COVERAGE - Laviolette doesn't hold back in post-game press conference
Laviolette is never one to leave any room for interpretation with his quotes to the media. That didn't change after Saturday night's game against the Penguins.
On the replay of the play leading up to Phil Kessel's game-winning goal in overtime, it seemed fairly evident that Predators forward Filip Forsberg was tripped up by the errant stick of Malkin as he attempted to cross the blue line out of the defensive zone.
When asked about the play, Laviolette was brutally honest:
"[Forsberg] got tripped. Everybody saw it. They went on a two-on-one; we should have been on the power play."
That's definitely not something you expect to hear a coach say in his postgame press conference, as the NHL generally frowns upon coaches criticizing calls -- or in this case a non-call -- from its referees.
Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Kessel's third goal of the year couldn't have come at a better time for the Penguins. Collecting a loose puck and cruising into the offensive zone on a two-on-one, Kessel buried his chance behind Pekka Rinne giving Pittsburgh the overtime win.
James Neal, Nashville Predators -- In five straight games, Neal has scored at least one point. Tonight's goal tied the game at one midway through the third and increased Neal's team-lead in points to nine.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- To a degree, I don't think you could've asked for much more from the Penguins netminder. Fleury stopped 38 of 39 shots to help Pittsburgh to the win.