Things have gotten so desperate in the Nashville Predators’ quest to score goals that it has started to affect more than just the players and coaches.
Twice in the final minute of the second period Thursday workers at Bridgestone Arena imagined — or perhaps hoped against hope — that the puck actually had crossed the goal line. First, the horn sounded briefly when Mike Fisher got off a shot from right in front with 38 seconds to go. Then with five to play a spotlight operator illuminated Gabriel Bourque when it looked as if he would convert on a scramble play in the crease.
Not until the third period did they get to do it for real. Then, they got to sound the horn and shine the light more than once.
Bourque, Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher all scored in the final 20 minutes and Pekka Rinne made 19 saves for his second straight shutout — his third in his last four appearances — as the Predators defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0.
“I think guys were laughing a little bit,” Rinne said of the final minute of the second period. “It was so close that it was like, ‘Ha ha, are you kidding me? It didn’t go in?’ … I thought that even that gained some momentum for us, and in the third period we took the game over.”
If any team knows how to handle a failure to score, it’s the Predators.
Bourque’s, on the power play, at 2:40 of the final period, was Nashville’s first regulation goal in 212:29, a streak that included 10 full 20-minute periods and parts of two others. There was an overtime goal two days earlier against San Jose but that came only after the Sharks held the Predators scoreless through regulation.
Spaling followed just over seven minutes later and Fisher finished it off with 1:44 to play. The three goals were one more than Nashville had in the previous three games combined and matched the most in any period. It had just five third-period goals in all through the first 13 games.
“I didn’t sense any frustration [after the second period],” coach Barry Trotz said. “It felt like we finally got a little more determined, [like] ‘Hey, we’re going to get this.’ And we stayed with it. Sometimes you get frustrated, but sometimes you say, ‘Hey, we’ve got them on their heels, keep going.’ That was sort of the feeling I got in the dressing room.”
The Predators outshot Phoenix 9-6 in the third period and 29-19 for the game and had their highest shot total since the opener.
Their most productive period in that regard was the second when they got 14 on net, which matched the first period of the first game for the most this season. The last two, of course, came in the final minute and, as it turned out, it did not matter that they didn’t go in.
“I think at that point we built something,” Bourque said. “When you get scoring chances you just have to keep a smile on your face and go work and have fun out there. That’s what we did in the third.”
• Briefly: Rinne’s personal shutout streak is 137:41, which is 11:23 short of his personal best and 5:19 behind Chris Mason (April 8-13, 2006) for the third-longest in franchise history. … Martin Erat became the second player to appear in 700 games all-time for Nashville. David Legwand is the only other one to get to that mark. … Defenseman Ryan Ellis was called for his first penalty of season. He was sent off for interference at 15:19 of the second period, the third of four penalties called against Nashville. … The Predators cap a stretch of four home games in seven days Saturday when they host the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).