Matt Duchene scored in regulation and the shootout-deciding goal in the Nashville Predators’ 6-5 win against the New Jersey Devils.
Filip Forsberg scored twice and lit the lamp in the opening round of the skills competition as the Predators erased a third-period deficit for the second straight game. Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bonino also scored. Pekka Rinne added 27 saves.
Despite two goals from Pavel Zacha and two points from Nikita Gusev, the Devils picked up their fourth loss in the previous five games.
Predators ready for playoff push?
If Nashville has its eyes on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now is the right time to climb up the standings. After an impressive win against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday, the Predators collected another important road victory and are currently two points out of the wild card with two games in hand on both the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes.
Even though the Devils are near the bottom of the NHL standings, the Predators should be proud of their effort which resulted in two points in the second leg of a back-to-back on the road.
“We are showing a lot of character right now,” Duchene said on the NBCSN telecast following the win. “We didn’t have any passengers tonight, everyone was going.”
If the Predators can string a couple of victories together, they can erase a disappointing first half in a hurry. Nashville will take on Vegas at Bridgestone Arena Saturday before embarking on a critical four-game road trip through Western Canada.
Can Zacha turn the corner?
Zacha became the first Devil since Mike Cammalleri to score a shorthanded goal and power-play tally in the same game per Devils’ statistician Craig Seiden. The 22-year-old forward showed off his silky hands when he converted a nifty deke to even the score at 1-1 early in the first period. He would later benefit from a deflection when he knotted the score again in the middle frame.
The Devils invested a lot of draft capital in Zacha when they selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft. The Czech forward has been largely inconsistent throughout his brief NHL career and has failed to live up to his draft status thus far.
There is not a magic formula for player development in the NHL. Each individual improves his ability and adjusts to the demands of the sport at a different rate. Will Zacha’s performance Thursday be a building block toward his path to stardom? The Devils have a few of the right pieces with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and others, but Zacha’s maturation could be an X-factor in the Devils’ quest to turn things around.
Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.