Forsberg gives Predators roller-coaster win vs. Flyers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On the night the Nashville Predators raised their first Western Conference championship banner to the rafters of Bridgestone Arena, they gave the sellout crowd a finish worthy of last year’s memorable playoff run.
Power-play goals by Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg in the last 77 seconds capped a wild rally from a 5-3 third-period deficit, giving Nashville a stunning 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
The last-ditch markers prevented the Predators (1-2-0) from starting the season with a three-game losing streak and forced Philadelphia to settle for a 2-2-0 road trip that could have easily been 4-0-0. How it happened was still vexing Nashville coach Peter Laviolette about 30 minutes after the final horn sounded.
“I’m confused, like everyone else probably is,” he said.
It ultimately came down to two decisions in the last three minutes after Philadelphia’s Dale Weise and Andrew MacDonald held and tripped Mattias Ekholm at 17:19.
Laviolette’s roll of the dice came up sevens, while Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t quite as fortunate.
With his team trailing by a goal and getting a two-man advantage, Laviolette pulled goalie Pekka Rinne about 30 seconds into the power play to create a six-on-three. The puck never left the offensive zone until Hartnell poked a wrister past Flyers goalie Brian Elliott at 18:43 for his second goal of the night and third of the season.
At that point, Hakstol took a shot at denying the tying marker, challenging on the basis of the Predators being offside. Following a brief review, the goal was confirmed and the game was tied.
What’s more, Hakstol’s failed gambit earned him a two-minute penalty under a new rule that cites teams for delay of game on an unsuccessful challenge. That gave Nashville another five-on-three and a power play that would have spilled over into overtime.
That wasn’t required. Forsberg, who stopped a run of five straight Flyers goals with a wrister at 7:38 of the final period, polished off the crazy comeback with a wrister off P.K. Subban’s third assist of the night.
“Emotionally, it was a big win for us,” Rinne said.
Multiple Philadelphia players broke sticks and expressed their displeasure with referees Justin St. Pierre and Frederick L’Ecuyer after the final horn. Elliott opted for the high road.
“I think we gave it away. I don’t think anybody took it,” he said. “That’s why it’s frustrating.”
After falling behind 3-0, the Flyers silenced a raucous audience by equalizing in the second period with a three-goal spurt in less than five minutes. Philadelphia used its speed to run around the Predators’ defense and create a spate of man-advantage chances that changed momentum.
MacDonald’s booming slapper at 10:19 started the rally. Rookie Nolan Patrick’s first NHL marker 16 seconds later made it 3-2, and Valtteri Filppula tied it on the power play at 15:05 off the rebound of Jakub Voracek’s shot.
Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny snapped the tie at 5:07 with a breakaway goal. That was followed at 6:48 by Filppula’s second man-advantage tally off a great feed from behind the net by Claude Giroux. However, Forsberg, Hartnell and a breakdown in discipline at the worst possible time served as change agents.
So, too, did Hakstol’s decision to risk a penalty that could decide a game in favor of possibly helping his team stave off a desperate opponent.
“He’s trying to help his team any way he can,” Laviolette said of Hakstol. “You’ve got 15 or 20 seconds to make the decisions. You’re going to get caught in those situations. We all are. Those decisions are tough.”
Elliott (2-1-0) and Rinne (1-1-0) each saved 25 shots.
Craig Smith, Hartnell and Nick Bonino gave Nashville its early 3-0 lead with goals by the 5:08 mark of the second period.
NOTES: Philadelphia RW Wayne Simmonds was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday. Simmonds scored four goals in three games, notching a hat trick at San Jose and a game-winner in overtime at Anaheim. ... Nashville RW Kevin Fiala (upper-body injury) returned to action after missing the Predators’ 4-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday. ... The Flyers scratched D Samuel Morin, C Jori Lehtera and D Brandon Manning. ... Predators D Roman Josi and C Colton Sissons were scratched due to lower-body injuries, with rookie Samuel Girard drawing into the lineup for his NHL debut in Josi’s stead. D Anthony Bitetto was also scratched.