Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mike Strasinger
For the fans, the last month of Nashville Predators hockey has been extremely excruciating, seeing their team go from being in the chase to being eliminated with more than two weeks left in the season. For the players? It’s been a season they’re probably more than happy to put behind them come late Saturday evening. To make things worse? The Predators haven’t won since April 2nd, a span of eight games, that saw the Predators get shutout three times and lose some close games.
Both sides were able to breath a huge sigh of relief when the Predators came from behind twice to grab a 4-3 win over Calgary in front of the 20th sellout crowd of the season for Nashville.
Ending both the first and second period tied, but with the Predators leading on the shot counter, Nashville ended up scoring two quick goals in the third and survived a late surge by the Flames to grab an elusive two points in the standings.
“I think we played a lot better than we have in the last little while especially in the offensive zone. Guys are hanging on to pucks and making things happen, making plays,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “It was good to see. I think we had some good chances and we buried some chances tonight too. So it was good to see.”
The influx of youth paved the path for Nashville this evening as all but one of the Predators goals came from players that are 24 or younger (excluding the first goal by David Legwand, which was his 200th goal of his career). Included in the foray against the Flames was Austin Watson’s first goal of his NHL career.
“It was incredible. I wasn’t sure if I got it. The shot went through a screen there, so I didn’t really know if it went it. I kind of just went off the fans’reaction. It’s exciting. It’s a milestone and it was great to experience here at home,” said Watson. “I didn’t know what to think. It was crazy. I kind of just blacked out a little bit and then got pretty excited. It was just one of the things that you never get to experience again so it was awesome.”
While Nashville’s eight game losing streak, a franchise-high, was broken this evening, it was a matter of sticking to what works for the Predators: hard work and having fun. Yet, winning and breaking the streak in front of the fans that had been cheering them on all season was probably the biggest highlight for the players this evening.
“It’s been a tough year for everybody. The fans have had a tough year as well and they’ve stuck by us the whole way. I think we have the best fans in the league so it’s nice to get a win for them in your last game,” said Predators forward Matt Halischuk.
Forward Austin Watson went on to echo the same sentiments, “It was huge for us and it was great to contribute. Winning was awesome to have for our fans on our last home game.”
The Predators have two games remaining this season, Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena and the season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena. Both Detroit and Columbus are on the cusp of a playoff spot and this win tonight by the Predators may give them enough confidence to spoil one of the their chances of getting into the post-season.
Nashville leaves tomorrow afternoon for the Motor City for the start of their final two games of the season. How they finish will help to both define where they will draft come the end of June and potentially which on-the-bubble players may be back with the team next season.