In a game that started out as frightful as the weather outside, the Predators warmed up after a poor opening 10 minutes to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night at the Sommet Center.
Thursday’s 4-2 win featured two teams playing with depleted lineups — and the Predators may have lost yet another player when Steve Sullivan went down midway through the third period. Sullivan was hit into the end boards by Carolina’s Andrew Alberts, and was down on the ice for a couple of minutes before slowly skating off on his own bent over at the waist.
Alberts was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct. Sullivan did not return to the game and was not available for comment following the contest.
When asked about the extent of Sullivan’s injury, Predators coach Barry Trotz said the left wing would be reevaluated on Friday. He indicated the injury was not related to the back injury that caused him to miss nearly two years of action.
“I don’t think it is anything too significant where he is going to miss a lot of time,” Trotz said. “He’s probably a little bit doubtful for Saturday, but I think he will be back quickly.”
The Predators surrendered the game’s first goal for the fifth consecutive game when Carolina's Rod Brind’Amour collected a rebound of a Jerome Samson shot and sent it between the pads of goaltender Pekka Rinne at 2:52 of the opening period.
Predators' penalty trouble and loose play in their own zone made it look like it was going to be long night for the Sommet Center faithful who braved the elements to come to the game, but J.P. Dumont’s shorthanded goal at 13:45 of the first tied the game 1-1 and shifted the momentum in the Predators favor.
Off of a pass from Alexander Sulzer, Dumont carried the puck down the right side a step ahead of Carolina’s Matt Cullen who had just been released from the penalty box. In the circle, Dumont snapped a wrist shot between the pads of Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward.
“Sulz made a great play,” Dumont said. “He made sure he joined the rush and never stopped skating to create the 2-on-1.”
The goal was the first career regular season shorthanded marker of Dumont’s 715 game NHL career.
“That shorthanded goal by J.P. was just huge for us because we were sort of fighting a little bit of an uphill battle,” Trotz said. “We felt like we were in mud a little bit.”
Just 19 seconds before the first intermission, the Predators took a 2-1 lead on a Patric Hornqvist power-play goal. With Cullen back in the box serving a hooking penalty, a Shea Weber slap shot ricocheted off of the glass behind the Carolina goal. Both Hornqvist and Jason Arnott were stationed in front of the net, and Hornqvist had the easy tap-in for his team-leading 15th goal of the season.
Sullivan scored what proved to be the game-winner at 18:50 of the second off of a strong play by Hornqvist drawing traffic behind the goal and finding Sullivan all alone in the right circle. Hornqvist later added another power-play goal at 11:16 of the third with the Predators on a two-man advantage. The Swedish Olympian leads the team in goals scored with 16.
“It’s nice to see two (power play) goals go in,” Hornqvist said.
• The Predators have alternated starting goaltenders for eight consecutive games.
• Defenseman Cody Franson was the team’s only healthy scratch. His place in the lineup was taken by Sulzer. Joel Ward missed the game with a wrist injury.
• Ben Guite, recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) on Wednesday, played in his first NHL game since October 14. Guite had 7:48 of ice time and was credited with four hits.
• The Preds have scored power-play goals in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 5 and 8.