Well-timed goal helps Predators hold off Bruins
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NHL coaches get only one opportunity a game to call a timeout, so they have to be certain they use it at a moment when it can most help their team.
After watching his Nashville Predators turn a four-goal lead into a one-goal nail-biter Monday night, coach Peter Laviolette hit the reset button. It didn’t take long for his team to respond.
Filip Forsberg scored on a breakaway just 34 seconds after Laviolette’s timeout, and Nashville buttoned things up from there to close out a 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
Boston (12-9-4) tallied twice in 75 seconds to inject some apprehension into a building which has seen the Predators struggle with third-period leads most of the season. Zdeno Chara’s point shot skipped by Pekka Rinne at 4:33, followed by David Pastrnak’s wrister from the left circle that drew the Bruins within 4-3.
Like most coaches, Laviolette prefers to hold his timeout in case it is needed to challenge a goal for offside or goalie interference. But these circumstances demanded a different tack.
“One, to stop the game and send it in a different direction, and two, to remind them that we had to keep playing,” Laviolette said when asked why he called for time. “We were playing too much defense at that point. We needed to get back on the attack and create some offense.”
Roman Josi and Forsberg got the message. Josi sprung Forsberg for a breakaway with a pass through the neutral zone. Forsberg beat Tuukka Rask with a wrister to the glove side, his 14th goal of the season, at 6:22 to restore a two-goal advantage.
The goal not only settled Nashville down, but also served as a gut punch for Boston.
“The next shift after it’s 4-3 still needs to be simple, still needs to be our game,” Bruins right winger David Backes said. “Instead, they get a puck all the way through the neutral zone for a breakaway. That’s a shift I’d like to have back and our group would like to have back.”
There is no question Boston would also like to have the game’s first 25 minutes back. The Predators (17-7-3) won the game in that span, running goalie Anton Khudobin out of the crease with four goals on only 14 shots.
Most of the damage was inflicted by the new first line of Craig Smith, center Kyle Turris and Kevin Fiala. The trio accounted for seven goals and three of the first four goals, with Smith personally giving Nashville a 2-0 first-period lead.
Smith pounced on the rebound of Alexei Emelin’s point blast at 1:26, then lofted a wrister over Khudobin at 19:42 for his 11th goal. That is one fewer than he scored in 78 games last season.
“Shooting the puck, having fun, making plays,” Smith said when asked why he is on a pace for his first 30-goal season.
Khudobin (7-1-2), who brought a 2.22 goals-against average and .932 save percentage to the rink, lasted barely over four minutes of the second period. Nick Bonino beat him to a rebound and scored his fifth goal at 2:15 to make it 3-0, and Fiala undressed Khudobin with a backhander to the net’s roof at 4:10.
“The 4-0 lead is suboptimal at best and sometimes a death sentence,” Backes said. “But I told the guys before you came in here, we battled and got back into the game.”
Rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy got the Bruins on the board at 10:14 of the second period with a one-timer on the power play, his fourth goal of the season. Rask settled things down and Boston made its push early in the third period.
However, Laviolette’s timeout and Forsberg’s scoring touch quickly quashed any thoughts of a blown lead for a team that has been outscored by 12 goals in the third period.
“They’re constantly pressing, attacking,” Laviolette said of the Bruins, “so if you can stay patient, you can get somebody behind the defense.”
Rinne (16-4-2) stopped 37 of 40 shots to earn the win. Rask saved 10 of 11 shots after replacing Khudobin.
NOTES: Nashville C Ryan Johansen (upper-body injury) missed a game for the first time this season Monday night. He was hurt in the second period of a 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday and didn’t play the last 33-plus minutes that evening. ... Boston LW Jake DeBrusk (upper-body injury) missed his second game Monday night. DeBrusk tallied the go-ahead goal in his NHL debut against the Predators on Oct. 5. ... The Bruins scratched D Paul Postma, LW Matt Beleskey and C Frank Vatrano. ... Nashville scratched D Anthony Bitetto and LW Cody McLeod. D Yannick Weber (lower-body injury) drew back into the lineup after missing 10 games.