With Mike Fisher sidelined by injury the last three games, David Legwand had an alternate captain’s ‘A’ sewn onto his jersey.
Tuesday, the Nashville Predators’ all-time leading scorer earned an ‘A’ for effort.
With a game against the Colorado Avalanche — and possibly his team’s playoff chances — hanging in the balance, Legwand won a one-on-one battle in the offensive end, took the puck to the front of the net and on his second shot delivered the game-winning goal.
It was the first of his two points in the final 1:14 as the Predators rallied for a 3-1 victory before 16,211 at Bridgestone Arena. He added an assist on Paul Gaustad’s empty-net goal.
“We have no give-up in here, no quit in here,” Legwand said. “Guys are going to keep battling until the end.”
Neither side scored through the first 40 minutes but Colorado went ahead on Matt Duchene’s goal 61 seconds into the final period.
That positioned the Avalanche to sweep the three-game season series between the teams, which would have been a dreadful development for the Predators. After all, Colorado has the Western Conference’s worst record and has won just twice on the road in 20 tries. It came in following a 1-0 overtime victory Saturday in its own building, where it also won 6-5 back on Feb. 18.
As it turned out, Nashville earned a split of the series (the teams finished with three points apiece) and climbed to ninth place in the conference standings — at least temporarily.
“This was a huge game for us, obviously,” Hornqvist said. “If we lose [Tuesday] night it would have been tough for us to make the playoffs. Now with the win everybody’s happy and we’re going forward with that. We still have to win more games to get in the race.”
It was the second time in as many days Legwand rallied Nashville with multiple third-period points. Plus, his pass started a sequence that resulted in Patric Hornqvist’s game-tying goal with 12:37 to go but was far enough down the line that he did not get an assist.
Similarly, he had a goal and an assist Monday at Chicago when the Predators overcame two-goal deficit and forced overtime. They lost that one in a shootout.
As a team, Nashville uncorked 18 shots over the final 20 minutes — two fewer than in the first two periods combined — and the three goals were the most in the final period since Feb. 14 against Phoenix.
“The last two games the third period has been excellent, and [Tuesday] night we pulled through in the end,” Legwand said. “We got down 1-0 and the guys didn’t give up.
“We had a chance to get it to the net a lot in the third. … Both teams were tired but we had to find a way to win, and we did.”
Legwand, the first draft pick in franchise history, now has six points in his last four games and has tied Shea Weber and Martin Erat for the team lead with 21 points.
He is the only Predators player with at least 10 goals and 10 assists and his plus-2 rating is second only to Fisher (plus-6) among the team’s centers. He also is one of three player with more than one game-winning goal and both of his have come in the last six contests.
“You always look to your veterans to lead the way,” coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s very few teams that have that young player who can lead a team. … Most young guys follow the leaders of the team. The older guys, they’re the ones that set the standard for what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.
“… Leggy, I thought, the last two nights is paying a bigger price and that whole line has been paying a bigger price to give us a chance to stay in it.”