Through the course of a game, momentum swings are a given. Rarely does a team have an easy night in which they go wire to wire without much pushback from their opposition.
Monday night, the Nashville Predators raced out to a quick 3-0 lead over Phoenix on first period goals from Nick Spaling, Mike Fisher, and Gabriel Bourque.
Flashback to Halloween night in the desert, the Predators took a similar 3-0 lead in that game, but early in the second from above the left faceoff circle, Jordan Szwarz sent a seemingly harmless wrist shot toward the Nashville goal. The puck eluded Carter Hutton. The Coyotes eventually went on to win that game 5-4 in a shootout.
Back to Monday night’s game; midway through the second, the Predators failed to clear a puck from inside their zone, with David Legwand’s clearing attempt hitting the skate of Kyle Chipchura and bounding to Antoine Vermette at the right faceoff dot. There, Vermette sent a seemingly harmless wrist shot toward Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec.
With bodies, including Mikkel Boedker who was eventually given credit for the goal, in front of Mazanec, the puck ended up trickling between his pads to get the Coyotes on the board.
Mazanec thought that the goal should not have counted because Boedker got a piece of his stick on the way by.
“I think the first goal shouldn’t count because it was a little bit interference, but it happens, it’s the NHL,” the young Czech said.
At first glance, Mazanec’s head coach didn’t think that was one he should have allowed, but upon further review, he had an eloquent observation as to why the puck squeezed through Mazanec’s pads.
“The goal, I looked at it,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “Originally I thought it was a bad goal, but I think it was their guy, he sort of spatulaed our goalie, you know, stuck the stick underneath and lifted him up. You can’t seal the ice when you are getting lifted up. They got some momentum off of that and they had a good push.”
Yes, he used spatula as a verb. He is that good.
Just under three and a half minutes after Boedker scored, Tim Kennedy drew the Coyotes to within one.
But Mazanec and the team in front of him remained calm the rest of the way. Phoenix had some opportunities to tie, but they could not solve Mazanec again.
The goaltender is playing with confidence and his teammates are confident in their goaltender, so a game that may have gone the other way a couple of weeks ago ended in a Nashville victory.
Team captain Shea Weber iced the game with a Minnesota Fats-esque bank shot off of the glass from nearly 180 feet that traveled the length of the ice and into the vacated Phoenix net.
“I was just happy that the puck is away,” Mazanec said of Weber’s long goal.