A “Special” Occasion (Speak of the Devils; 10.25.18)

AP Photo

 – by Tyler L. Dudley
A Lot of Sports Talk contributing reporter


NEWARK, NJ — The one glaring weak spot in an otherwise stellar start to the season for the Nashville Predators, their play during special teams situations, came through as a strength when it had to be on Thursday night in continuing their perfect form away from the Music City.

What began as a shoot-out in the first period between Nashville and the New Jersey Devils almost ended in a literal one before Kyle Turris scored 3:35 into overtime to lift the Predators to a 4-3 victory in Newark, marking the Predators’ eighth win in 10 to start the season, including a perfect 5-0 mark in away games.

The Predators came back from three separate one-goal deficits, including scoring late in the third period before Turris’ shot from the high slot deep into overtime gave the Predators their only lead of the contest.

“We’re 8-2, and we’re pretty happy with that,” said Turris, who also had an assist on Nashville’s second goal. “There’s always things that you can get better at, improve on as a team and individually and everyone’s working towards that. But we’re pretty happy.”

Nashville’s special teams, which came into tonight ranking next to last in the power play and also toward the bottom of the league on the penalty kill, excelled in both situations in the third period to help set up Turris’ heroics. Down 3-2, the Predators scored on the power play when Filip Forsberg one-timed a cross-ice pass from Ryan Johansen at 13:40 to even the score at 3-3. About 25 seconds earlier, Predators goalkeeper Juuse Saros made a spectacular save on a breakaway by Blake Coleman to keep Nashville within a goal.

The Predators’ Nick Bonino committed a tripping penalty 25 seconds after the third-period equalizer, but Nashville killed off the ensuing Devils’ power play.

“I like the fact that we kept fighting back,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. “Special teams has been working a little bit and trying to get on track which I thought really came through in the third period and won us a hockey game.”

Both teams came out peppering their opponent’s net, with the Devils getting 18 shots on Saros in the first period while Nashville was able to get 17 on the net of Devils’ goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid, including a few point-blank chances from in close.

“It was a fast game, both teams had good chances,” Saros said. “It was a very challenging game to play. [New Jersey] had a lot of traffic in the base and the attack.”

The Devils, at even strength, opened the scoring just 2:58 into the game when Damon Severson took a pass from Taylor Hall before firing a shot through lots of traffic past Saros for a 1-0 lead.

Nashville tied the score late in the first as defenseman Yannick Weber’s innocuous-looking wrist shot from the blue line fluttered past the glove of Kinkaid and into the top corner of the net.

Nashville, who had failed on a power play chance right before Weber’s goal, conceded soon after Forsberg committed an interference penalty with 2:07 remaining in the opening period. From the right circle, Hall sent a shot pass toward the direction of Nico Hischier, who deflected it from the slot area past Saros to give the Devils the lead once more.

“That first period was crazy, the way it went back and forth,” Laviolette said.

Viktor Arvidsson tied the score for Nashville past the midway point of the second period soon after coming off the bench on a line change, taking a drop pass from Turris before slapping a shot past Kindaid. The tally was Arvidsson’s fourth goal in his last three games.

Just 30 seconds later, Hischier gave the Devils the lead again on another deflection, this time redirecting a pass from the blue line by Kyle Palmieri past Saros for his second goal of the game.

In the overtime, Nashville dominated the session in outshooting the Devils 4-1 at the time of Turris’ game-winner.

“We’re focusing on the process of keeping things simple and getting shots,” Turris said.

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