Flyers battle past Predators in shootout

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The winning coach sounded like he had lost and the losing coach sounded like he had won.
Playing without two starting defensemen, the short-handed Nashville Predators appeared to outgun the Philadelphia Flyers for most of Saturday night but ran into a hot goaltender in Steve Mason and fell 3-2 in a shootout at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
Mason made 34 saves, including a huge stop on center Colin Wilson's breakaway in the last minute on a breakaway. Mason (9-8-0) then stopped centers Craig Smith, Matt Hendricks and Matt Cullen in the shootout to make the first-round goal of center Vincent Lecavalier stand up.
It was the eighth win in 11 games for the Flyers (12-12-2), although it didn't seem to please coach Craig Berube.
"I didn't think they were very sharp, but they hung in there and they battled," he said. "The goalie kept them in there. A win's a win, but we have some things that we need to iron out."
Starting a six-game, 6,801-mile road trip that also will take the team to Minnesota, Detroit, Dallas, Ottawa and Chicago, Philadelphia was outshot 36-24. It also took five minor penalties in the first two periods and looked like a team playing the back end of a back-to-back.
But the Flyers, who edged Winnipeg 2-1 on Friday morning in a game that started at 11:30, had just enough fuel in the tank to hold off Nashville (13-11-3).
"It wasn't the best-looking win," Mason said, "but it's nice to come on top in one of these games. We've struggled in tight situations like this before. Being able to come out and get the extra two points is huge."
Nashville went without defensemen Shea Weber, who took a puck to the face in Thursday night's 3-0 loss to Edmonton, and Kevin Klein (lower-body injury). It still controlled the puck for long stretches, even though it iced three rookies among its six defensemen.
One of the Predators' few errors in their zone gave Philadelphia the first goal. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm gave the puck away and right wing Claude Giroux made him play with a slap shot over the right shoulder of goalie Marek Mazanec at 16:49.
That advantage lasted all of 60 seconds as center Mike Fisher Mike Fisher wristed a shot from the left faceoff circle past Mason for his sixth goal. Right winger Patric Hornqvist, returning after missing three games with an upper-body injury, drew the assist.
Hornqvist kept generating opportunities, drawing two of Philadelphia's three minors in the second period. But Nashville (13-11-3) failed to cash in, generating just one shot on Mason during nearly six minutes of power play time.
"Penalty kill was excellent," Berube said. "The killers did a great job."
Still, the Predators managed to carve out a 2-1 lead at 5:05 of the third period when Wilson slid a backhander between Mason's legs for his fourth goal. Wilson outraced right winger Jakub Voracek to a pass by left winger Gabriel Bourque to create the opportunity.
However, the Flyers evened the score at 13:07 when center Sean Couturier netted his third goal off a nice setup by defenseman Andrej Meszaros.
"We had that play covered," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Then one of our young defensemen fell down and we exposed that back side to Couturier."
Mazanec finished with 22 saves for the Predators and has allowed two goals or fewer in eight straight games. But it wasn't enough to keep them from losing their third shootout in as many tries.
"I thought we played a heck of a game," Trotz said. "Every forward had a shot on net, we drew six penalties tonight, we had a breakaway in overtime and we hit a post in overtime. I feel that we should have won the hockey game."
NOTES: Nashville C Filip Forsberg was placed on IR Saturday with an upper-body injury suffered on Nov. 15 in Pittsburgh. ... Philadelphia RW Adam Hall has been impressive on faceoffs lately. Hall has won 66 of 90 draws in the last 12 games, raising his rate to 62.1 percent (87-140) on the season. ... Nashville recalled D Joe Piskula from Milwaukee of the AHL because of its injuries on defense. Piskula dressed and was on the second pairing with Mattias Ekholm. ... This marked just the 17th meeting between the Flyers and Predators since Nashville joined the NHL before the 1998-99 season. By contrast, the teams have made 17 trades.

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