The Nashville Predators offered a post-game salute to the crowd, the smallest of the season at the Sommet Center. But they had already honored the announced crowd of 11,764 with the way they played for 60 minutes.
Goaltender Chris Mason stopped all 22 shots he faced and his teammates combined for three goals in a 3-0 defeat of the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. It was the fourth loss in a row for the Flames, who had scored 12 goals in their previous two games with the Predators this season.
Mason has stopped 78 of the last 79 shots he has faced. This was his third shutout of the season.
“When we played Calgary before, we were still trying to find our identity as a team,” Mason said. “I don’t think we were playing our best hockey the last two times we met Calgary.
“This time out was probably one of our better games of the year. We were strong in all areas. We stayed disciplined. Our forwards were unbelievable. Our defensemen were magnificent. We didn’t have any weakness in our game.”
Mason has also rediscovered his game, playing with a renewed confidence.
“I took a step back,” Mason said. “I was in a situation where I sometimes I was trying so hard that I was almost holding my breath every time I was on the ice. Now I am relaxed and having fun.”
Mason and his teammates all know they have to play this way if they are going to continue to close the gap and move into playoff contention.
“Last year we could afford to take a few nights off and still win because we had so much firepower,” Mason said. “This year we can’t afford that. Every game is going to be tight. We are going to be in 3-0 and 2-0 games the rest of the year.”
Right wing J.P. Dumont continued his points streak with a goal and an assist on defenseman Ville Koistinen’s power-play goal. He has 14 points in his nine games (seven goals, seven assists), a new career-high. He has multiple points in five of seven games.
“I don’t think we are going to have to watch video,” Dumont said. “It was a great all-around game.”
Dumont continues to earn praise from head coach Barry Trotz for the way he has stepped up the offensive side of his game.
“One of the things J.P. has always been able to use is his ability to score,” Trotz said. “He’s a heavy participant in the game.
“Earlier on this year he was watching a majority of the game. Now he is more involved and because of that he’s getting extra pucks. He has taken a lot of responsibility for how he should play.”
Rounding out the scoring for the Predators was right wing Martin Erat, who scored the first goal of the game.
Mason was happy for a home win as the Predators prepare for a visit Thursday at 7 from Anaheim.
“We have been typically strong at home, but this year we have been pretty average here,” said Mason. “We need the games at home. We need every game, but we need the games at home especially.”
SULLY OUT FOR THE YEAR: Predators forward Steve Sullivan will not play this season.
Dealing with the effects of back surgeries during the summer, Sullivan has been working out, but it was decided Tuesday that he will be listed as “doubtful” for the rest of the season, but that for all practical purposes, he will not play.
“We talked about it and discussed it,” Sullivan said. “The time frame is just getting too late now. We aren’t getting the results that I want or that I need to come back and play.
“I still need four weeks of cardio training on the ice and skating before I would be able to come back. And in a best case scenario, I am still three or four weeks away from being able to start something like that.”
Sullivan’s rehab work will now change its focus. His efforts will center on being ready for training camp for the 2008-2009 season.
WEBER BACK: Shea Weber was reactivated from injured reserve as the Predators dressed seven defensemen. He has missed the last 11 games with a leg injury.
Kevin Klein was a healthy scratch on defense.
“It has been a little bit of a tough year so far,” said Weber. “On the other hand there is another half of the season to go.
“I’m still a little rusty. There are still some things that are different at game speed. I tried to limit my mistakes. The guys did a good job of helping me out there.”
Weber told the coaches he was ready to go Monday. Trotz made the decision to play Weber after Tuesday’s morning skate.
PEVERLEY ELEVATED: Rich Peverley, promoted Monday from Milwaukee, played on a line with David Legwand and Martin Erat. Right winger Jed Ortmeyer was a healthy scratch to make room for Peverley. Left winger Darcy Hordichuk missed the game with a leg injury.
“We want to create a little bit more offensively,” Trotz said. “We are trying to light the fire under some guys. We felt a little bit of change on the Legwand line would hopefully spark something.”