The Nashville Predators gambled that keeping Mikael Granlund instead of trading the pending free agent at the deadline could help them play their way into the post-season.
Granlund certainly delivered Thursday night.
He became only the fourth player in NHL history to score a game-tying goal in the final 10 seconds of regulation and then score the game-winner in overtime as the Predators beat Calgary 4-3 in a playoff-type showdown between the Western Conference’s two wild-card teams. Granlund tied it up with 0.1 second left in regulation, then won the game 1:20 into overtime.
“Granny, he was Captain Clutch tonight,” Nashville defenceman Ryan Ellis said.
Granlund said it was quite the ending.
“The biggest thing is that we got those two points and we found a way somehow,” Granlund said. “It was a big two points. We tied it up, then they get the third goal right at the end and then we tie it up again. That’s hockey sometimes. Entertaining for sure.”
Roman Josi and Colton Sissons also had a goal apiece, with Ellis having three assists. Nashville won its third straight and improved to 6-1-1 over its last eight games.
Mikael Granlund scored with one second remaining in regulation and then scored the <a href=”https://twitter.com/EASPORTSNHL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@EASPORTSNHL</a> OT game winner… did someone say hero? <a href=”https://t.co/cHmxT2P4RB”>pic.twitter.com/cHmxT2P4RB</a>
Mikael Backlund had a goal and two assists, and Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson each scored as Calgary had its two-game winning streak halted. Flames interim coach Geoff Ward called the loss unfortunate even as Calgary got a point to stay a spot ahead of Nashville.
“You got 42 seconds left right, and you got the lead,” Ward said. “They came back with a good push. Obviously, they’re playing for their lives right now, too. They’re the same as us. They’re fighting for those last two spots.”
The Predators hadn’t been among the top eight teams in the West since Nov. 13, until Tuesday night after beating Ottawa, and even then they needed a loss by Arizona to give them the edge for the second wild card. By taking the season series 2-1, Nashville holds onto the second spot, a point behind the Flames with two games still in hand.
Nashville trailed 2-1 when Josi scored his 15th with 5:30 left from the left circle, squeezing the puck under goalie David Rittich’s right arm. Mangiapane put the Flames up 3-2 scoring with 42.9 seconds left for seemingly the winning goal.
Nashville took its timeout immediately, and Granlund tied it up from in front with the puck crossing the line just before the buzzer. Granlund then scored his 17th for the game-winner from the slot to start the Predators celebrating. Rittich slammed his stick to the ice, breaking it in half as he went to the bench.
“It’s frustrating that we let that one last in,” Backlund said. “It’s tough. Point-three or however many seconds were left.”
It was Granlund’s 11th goal since Nashville hired coach John Hynes on Jan. 7 with this his fourth game-winner in that span.
“He’s very consistent in his play, and he finds a way to get to areas where, if you look at him offensively, he gets to the areas where you can score,” Hynes said. “And then he has the ability to make key plays at key times. That’s the player, that’s how good a player he is.”
Goalie Juuse Saros made 36 saves for his eighth win in 10 starts.
The Flames were coming off a big 5-2 win in Boston on Tuesday night and have been the NHL’s best road team since Nov. 23, winning 15 of their last 20 games. They also got captain Mark Giordano back in Nashville after he missed 10 games with a hamstring injury.
Calgary outshot Nashville 11-8 in the first period, and Saros smothered a point-blank shot from Rasmuss Andersson at the edge of the crease at 11:08. Sissons put Nashville up with his ninth goal, beating Rittich from in front with a wrister off a pass from Colin Blackwell with 31.2 seconds left in the period.
Saros didn’t have a chance to deny Andersson 26 seconds into the second, when he tapped in the puck easily off a pass from Backlund. Then the Swede got his 15th with help of a bounce at 3:48 sending the puck past Saros’ outstretched glove and skate giving Calgary a 2-1 lead.