Two years of overtime struggles didn’t have the Nashville Predators all that concerned.
The Predators got the puck and kept it long enough for Viktor Arvidsson to score 65 seconds into overtime and give them a 2-1 victory over the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Nashville has won two straight games in overtime, improving to 4-7 in the 3-on-3 session this season and showing signs that struggles in that area may be over.
“That feels nice,” said goaltender Pekka Rinne, who made 22 saves but didn’t face a shot in overtime. “Obviously there’s been a lot of games last couple years that hasn’t gone our way in OT, and winning that game in OT, Arvy putting the puck in the net, that was a huge win.”
Arvidsson’s 25th goal of the season made the Predators 6-19 in overtime over the past two years. Ryan Johansen, who made the pass to set up the 2-on-1, said the struggles have motivated the Predators, who also won Monday in overtime against Winnipeg.
“You want to start finding ways to come on top and what a great way to be able to get results at this time of the year when the points are so crucial,” Johansen said. “It just shows the character in our group and being able to get over some adversity in that situation.”
Nashville has won three in a row and picked up points in five consecutive games, and coach Peter Laviolette said the team has simulated overtime situations to fix a major flaw. The key Thursday night was center Mike Fisher winning the opening faceoff and the Predators possessing the puck for the better part of a minute.
A bad decision on a line change cost the Capitals, who fell to 7-3 in overtime this season.
“We made a mistake there,” said coach Barry Trotz said. “The 3-on-3, if the other team possesses the puck, especially if they’re standing in the neutral zone, you can’t change.”
The Predators are used to those kinds of mistakes after so many overtime losses in the past several months, but players have noticed tangible improvements as the season has gone on.
“It’s about eliminating odd-man rushes,” said Arvidsson, who was thinking shot all the way on the 2-on-1 with P.K. Subban and made it count. “I think we’ve done a better job of that and eliminating scoring chances and taking advantage more of the chances we get.”
The Capitals picked up a point by reaching overtime to pad their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference but cost themselves another. Goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed a goal glove-side to James Neal in the second period, made 22 saves but said he’d like Arvidsson’s goal back.
The tight-checking snoozer of a game that featured only goals by Neal and Washington’s Brett Connolly was coach-approved but not can’t-miss entertainment. Despite that, Rinne said it was a positive for the Predators to win a low-scoring game on the road, especially considering that being stuck behind the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild in the Central Division likely means they’ll open the playoffs next month on the road.
“Going into the playoffs, everybody knows you’ve got to be defensively extremely good, and tonight we showed that we can play against one of the top teams in the league and be really solid defensively and don’t give them a lot,” Rinne said. “I’m sure that gives us confidence moving forward.”
The Predators try to make it four in a row at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday in the second leg of a brief, two-game Eastern Conference road trip.
The Capitals visit the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are trying to mount a late playoff push and could get captain Steven Stamkos back from a long-term knee injury.
NOTES: Predators F Colin Wilson missed the game because of an undisclosed lower-body injury, and Kevin Fiala replaced him in the lineup. … Capitals D Kevin Shattenkirk returned from a two-game suspension for charging and pushed Nate Schmidt out of the lineup after he scored a goal Tuesday. … Rinne played his 500th NHL game.
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