The Nashville Predators didn’t earn many style points by barely beating the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 in OT on Monday, but they’ll take the two standings points instead.
James Neal scored the overtime game-winner for his 22nd goal of the 2014-15 season. Six of those tallies have been game-winners, continuing his interestingly mixed first campaign with Nashville.
With Anaheim’s regulation loss, the Predators take a tenuous hold of the NHL’s top standings spot, as they hold a regulation/overtime win tiebraker over the Ducks, who also have 91 points. Both teams have played 68 games and could be passed by the likes of the St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens … but again, Nashville was probably just glad to regain control of its Central Division lead for the time being.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes lose but perhaps bolster a little pride in an overtime defeat. That might not feel like an accomplishment considering the tank race they’re in, but losing has to get old.
Even this league-leading Predators team can relate.
The Nashville Predators have gone from being the most dominant team in the NHL to one that can’t seem to win at all. They dropped their sixth consecutive game in Winnipeg’s 3-1 victory Saturday night.
Nashville’s offense has been part of the problem lately as its managed just six goals in its last four contests. Predators forward James Neal finished with a minus-two rating tonight and extended his point drought to nine games. Rookie scoring leader Filip Forsberg has also gone cold with just a goal and an assist over his last nine contests.
Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler netted the game-winning goal in the second period and later got an assist on an empty netter. This was his second multi-point game in three contests, giving him 18 goals and 48 points in 64 contests in 2014-15.
With a 33-21-12 record, Winnipeg has a four-point edge over the Los Angeles Kings in the Wild Card race, but the Kings have played in two less contests. At the same time, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles is closer to third place in the Pacific Division than the second Wild Card spot, so the Jets and Kings aren’t in direction competition, although that could change in a hurry.
Nashville is still leading the Central Division with a 41-19-7 record, but St. Louis is just two points back after beating Toronto tonight. Chicago is within striking distance too, so the Predators are in danger of losing the home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs if they don’t find a way to right their ship. Of course, even if their position wasn’t in jeopardy, the last thing they want to do is limp into the postseason.
Toronto forward Richard Panik has become the seventh player to be fined for diving this season, the NHL announced on Thursday:
Panik was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 824 at Montreal on Feb. 14. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident during NHL Game No. 936 at Washington on Mar. 1.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green received a minor penalty for holding on the play, at 10:57 of the second period.
Here’s video of the incident against the Caps:
With that, Panik joins Islanders goalie Michal Neuvirth (fine occurred while with Buffalo), Montreal’s P.K. Subban, the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Florida’s Vincent Trocheck and Nashville’s James Neal as the seven players to be publicly outed as divers, under new rules put forth by the league this season.
Buffalo’s Michal Neuvirth has become the sixth player — and first goalie — to be fined for diving this season, the NHL announced on Wednesday:
Neuvirth was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 251 vs. Toronto on Nov. 15. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident during NHL Game No. 886 vs. Nashville on Feb. 22.
Predators forward Mike Santorelli received a minor penalty for interference on the goaltender on the play, at 2:23 of the second period.
The incident involving Santorelli that led to the fine:
With that, Neuvirth joins Montreal’s P.K. Subban, the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Florida’s Vincent Trocheck and Nashville’s James Neal as the six players to be publicly outed as divers, under new rules put forth by the league this season.
In the midst of a surprising and dominant season, Nashville has started talking new deal with two of its biggest catalysts.
Veteran centers Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro — both slated to be UFAs on July 1 — have entered into the early phase of extension negotiations, per ESPN.
Fisher, 34, is in the last of a two-year, $8.4 million deal with a $4.2 million cap hit. Though he’s only played 29 games this year due to a ruptured Achilles, Fisher has been great — he’s scored 13 goals and 25 points while averaging 18:17 TOI per night.
It’s not surprising the Preds want to get an extension done; despite turning 35 in June, Fisher is posting a career high in points-per-game average (.86) and is a popular figure in the community thanks in large part to his wife, musician Carrie Underwood.
Ribeiro, also 34, has been arguably the best free agent signing from last summer. Scooped up for just $1.05 million after a fall out — and buyout — in Arizona, Ribeiro sits seventh in the NHL in assists (33) and has been a dynamic playmaker on the club’s top line between Filip Forsberg and James Neal.
Signing Ribeiro was a masterstroke by GM David Poile, so it’s no surprise he’s expressed interest in keeping Ribs around for at least another year.