Image credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Rob Zepp got his first career shootout win and the Philadelphia Flyers gained two more points in the playoff race when they took down the NHL-leading Nashville Predators 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
Wayne Simmonds and Ryan White scored for the Flyers, while Colin Wilson and Craig Smith lit the lamp for Nashville. Zepp, though he struggled at times, held his own and came away with 20 saves on 22 shots. Pekka Rinne, always a solid goaltender for the Predators, stopped 31 of 33 shots.
Both teams came out looking a little cautious at the start of the game, but the Flyers easily kept up with the best team in the NHL, and managed to score on them first. Simmonds’ goal, his team-leading 23rd of the season, was a redirection off of a Michael Del Zotto shot. It took the Predators until almost the end of the period to get on the board, but an unassisted Wilson goal at 18:58 (almost an exact ten minutes after Simmonds’ goal) did the trick and the period ended in a tie. The shot totals were heavily lopsided in the Flyers’ favor after the first, 13-3.
Thanks to a slashing penalty called on Shea Weber with 4.8 seconds left in the first period, the Flyers began the second on the man advantage. Unfortunately, whatever wind had been in their sails throughout the first had seemingly left them. They weren’t even able to record any shots on goal, and the Predators killed off the penalty with relatively little effort.
Almost four minutes into the frame, there was an extremely questionable call on Chris VandeVelde that sent him to the box for an illegal check to the head. An interesting call, seeing as how he both had the puck and was facing the boards, but alas. Zac Rinaldo took a 10-minute misconduct on the same play, so both men headed to the box and gave the Predators their first power play opportunity.
The Flyers’ defense was able to hold off Nashville and the penalty was killed, and things were relatively quiet for the next six or seven minutes. That’s when the Flyers found a spark of life.
White’s goal at 11:21 was his second goal in as many games, and he’s now on a 4-game point streak. Philadelphia seemed to get their mojo back after the White goal, and really made Rinne work hard to prevent any further shots from getting past him. Despite James Neal taking a slashing call with about three minutes left in the period, the Flyers were unable to widen their lead, and the second ended with the Flyers leading 2-1.
Less than a minute into the third, the Predators got back on the board, as Smith’s goal made it a 2-2 game. Nashville had much more jump in the final period, but the Flyers were somehow able to hold off any further scoring after Smith’s tally and the game went into overtime for the sixth time in the Flyers’ last eleven games. With nothing of importance taking place in OT, the game required a shootout to determine a winner.
Jake Voracek shot first for the Flyers and scored on Rinne. Matt Cullen was denied by Zepp on the other end. Simmonds went second and scored, and Zepp got the glove save on Smith to get the Flyers the win.
Notes: The Flyers are now four points behind Boston for the final playoff spot in the East… Wayne Simmonds is on a career-high 7-game point streak… Peter Laviolette made his first return to Philadelphia after being relieved of his coaching duties after last season. He served as head coach of the Flyers for five seasons… Zac Rinaldo made his return to the lineup after not playing since January 20th… The Flyers have one more game on this homestand – tomorrow against the Capitals (12:30, NBC) – before going on a brief road trip this week to face the Hurricanes and the Maple Leafs.