Classic Goalie Duel Ends in Nashville Predators OT Win over Ducks

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What a battle it was between Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators and John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night.

Gibson is in the midst of his worst season as an NHL goalie, but he showed flashes of greatness from when he first broke into the league eight years ago.

After an unexpected six-day break from action due to a water main break that flooded the main concourse of their home arena, the Predators got back on the winning track and now have wins in five of their last seven and points in six of seven.

None of these wins have come in pretty fashion, and all five of them over this stretch have come by a narrow one goal margin. However, last night’s overtime winner by Roman Josi was gorgeous team play as Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene worked the puck to a streaking Josi:

It took some brilliant 3-on-3 play from the Predators as Josi snuck one past a diving Gibson. That’s what it was going to take to beat either goaltender on this particular night.

The last place Ducks are probably a team the Predators would’ve liked to put away a lot earlier in this game, but to their credit they refused to go away thanks to Gibson’s extremely impressive night between the pipes.

Gibson finished with a 1.99 Goals Saved Above Expected while tallying 39 saves in another losing effort for the NHL’s worst team in the standings. Saros answered the call by making 34 saves of his own for a 1.69 Goals Saved Above Expected. He particularly had to come up big in the 3rd period as the Ducks racked up 16 shots to the Predators’ seven.

This is a welcoming sight for the Nashville Predators as Saros is rounding back into elite level status after a shaky start. He has ascended to 15th in MoneyPuck’s goalie rankings in terms of Goals Saved Above Expected.

Saros has won six of his last eight starts while only giving up more than three goals in two of those games over that same stretch. He is keeping the Predators in a position to win while the offense remains inconsistent and battles with an unreliable power play that went 0-for-2 against the Ducks.

It’s no secret that the Predators won’t go very far, and might even miss the postseason altogether, if Saros isn’t at his top form like he was in this narrow victory over the lowly Ducks.

The real challenges on the schedule are upcoming for the Predators now as their next four games come against Eastern Conference opponents, and three of those being teams in current playoff spots.

The red-hot New Jersey Devils are on Thursday. By far the biggest surprise team of the NHL and one that will run the Predators out of the building if we don’t start seeing these offensive chances result in more goals.

The Predators dominated the high danger chances against the Ducks but only had two goals to show for it. The same could be said about the game before against the Red Wings when they were shutout 3-0 despite leading high danger chances 14-6.

You can definitely see a shift in the Predators over the past three weeks as they remain right in the muck of a crowded Central Division race.

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