For the first time this season, and just the third time since the league adopted the 3-on-3 overtime format, the Nashville Predators have won a game in overtime.
The Preds beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, in a finish you could not have scripted.
With 1:20 left in the overtime period, Mattias Ekholm got called for holding - setting up a Vancouver power play. The Preds, facing a 4-on-3, sent penalty killers Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Calle Jarnkrok to the ice.
With time winding down, and a shootout sure to follow, Josi corralled a blocked shot, sped up ice on a 2-on-0 breakaway, and found Calle Jarnkrok for the game winner with :01 left in the game.
“I saw the puck was bobbling a little bit,” Calle Jarnkrok said. “I wasn’t sure if Roman was going to shoot it or not but he gave me the open-netter so I’d like to say thanks to Josi.”
Coach Peter Laviolette added: “It was a good spot for him (Jarnkrok). He’s been practicing 3-on-3 and in games on the 3-on-3. That turns into a penalty kill. At that point, you’re putting the penalty killers on the ice. He’s a guy that we rely on in those situations.
“The thing about 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 is the odd times when you can’t catch a blocked shot and you’ve got four guys that are stationary or guys down by the goal line. If you can get out of the hole, you can catch a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-1 or even a 2-on-0. It was nice to see them get out there after that blocked shot and get down the ice.”
Nashville has been historically bad in overtime periods since switching to the current 3-on-3 format. Their 3-16 overtime record is worst in the NHL, and their 16 overtime losses are more than any other team in the league - just ahead of Dallas (15), Carolina (14), and Anaheim (14).
“We found a way to win in OT,” Filip Forsberg said. “Hopefully, we can learn something from this. Overtime is weird; they get a penalty and go on the power play, but we score the game winner. Hockey is a fun sport and I think working hard is the biggest thing.”
The Preds are hoping that getting the overtime monkey off their back, so-to-speak, will help kick start an improved second half. Nashville is 18-16-7 this season; they sit in fourth place in the Central - four points behind the Blues - and are just one point back of the final wild card spot. For comparison: this time last year the Preds were 19-16-7.
“It’s good for tonight,” Laviolette said. “I don’t know if a good bounce will lead to another good bounce. You’d certainly like to hope so. They had to play defense and we had to get some big saves from our goaltender. I liked the level in which we competed and the speed in which we played the game.”