Paul Gaustad (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Paul Gaustad leaves game after hit from Alex Burrows

By Jim Diamond

Late in the third period of Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, Predators center Paul Gaustad collided with Vancouver winger Alex Burrows near the blue line in front of the Canucks bench. Burrows’ shoulder appeared to catch Gaustad up high, and he grabbed at his face as he was falling to the ice.

Goddess of the Gifs Steph caught it here:

Play continued for a bit before it was whistled down. Since there was no delayed penalty indicated, the ensuing 5-minute interference major that was assessed to Burrows was likely seen by one of the linesmen and communicated to the referees at the stoppage.

“I felt that we collided more than anything, but you never want to see someone go down,” Burrows said. “I’ve been on the wrong side sometimes and you never want to see someone be down. I hope he’s alright.”

Burrows was ejected from the game, as is mandatory when an interference major is called.

“My intentions weren’t to hurt him or anything,” Burrows said.

Gaustad’s fellow center Mike Fisher did not like the hit.

“The refs made the right call,” Fisher said. “That was a cheap shot. Hopefully Paul is going to be okay. That’s the main thing.”

As Gaustad was down on the ice, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa skated by him and yelled in his direction and was immediately given a game misconduct by referee Francois St. Laurent.

Gaustad skated off the ice under his own power and went directly back to the Nashville locker room. A team spokesman said that they did not have an update on his condition.

In his postgame press conference, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that he did not see the hit.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will likely review the hit. Burrows is no stranger to controversial plays. Earlier this season, he was suspended for three games as a result of a late and high hit on Montreal’s Alexei Emelin.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=658671

“You’re always worried,” Burrows said when asked if he was concerned about a suspension. “It’s not for me to judge or forecast what’s going to happen. We’ll let the people that are in charge make the call and we’ll go from there.”

Should Gaustad be sidelined, he will join a growing list of banged up Nashville forwards. Although Matt Cullen, James Neal, and Eric Nystrom have all resumed skating, none played in Tuesday night’s game.

Not known for his offensive prowess, Gaustad chipped in with an assist on Nashville’s second goal Tuesday. He is relied upon heavily for his faceoff and penalty killing acumen. With a 56.1 success rate, Gaustad entered the night as the team’s best faceoff man, placing him in the top 10 of the NHL. His 2:16 of average shorthanded ice time per game is tops among Nashville forwards.

Pekka Rinne (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Pekka Rinne – Nashville’s Masterton Trophy nominee for the 2014-15 season

By Jim Diamond

For the second time in his career, Pekka Rinne has been named as the Predators’ Masterton Trophy nominee for the 2014-15 season as selected by the Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The award is presented on behalf of, and voted upon by, the membership of the PHWA.

After a 2013-14 season that was taxing both physically and mentally, Rinne is enjoying a bounce back campaign and has led the Predators back to the playoffs after missing out the last two seasons.

Following an offseason hip surgery, Rinne developed an E. coli infection in that same hip in October 2014, sidelining him for 51 games. After the potentially life-threatening infection cleared up, he returned for the final month of the season and played for Finland at the 2014 World Championships, where he was named MVP.

Rinne carried over his strong performance at the worlds into this season. He is tied for the NHL lead in wins with 41.

In the summer of 2006, Rinne was injured by a Finnish pizzeria shop owner, who attacked the goaltender with pepper spray and then tackled him to the ground, causing an injury to his shoulder, which required surgery to correct.

To scout Rinne, the Predators had to show up early to Karpat games. Rinne was the backup goaltender, so they had to make their observations based on warmups. Nashville took him in the eighth round (258th overall) in 2004 when he was 21-years-old.

To put his late draft position into perspective, the NHL Draft now consists of just seven rounds and a total of 210 picks.

Rinne didn’t become an NHL starter until he was 27, but he has now surpassed 200 wins. He leads the franchise in wins and shutouts.

Rinne is active in Best Buddies of Tennessee, which works with individuals who have developmental disabilities. Rinne and team captain Shea Weber have purchased suites to all home games, where they host pediatric cancer patients and their families. 

Kevin Fiala (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Kevin Fiala shows well in surprise NHL debut

By Jim Diamond

As the cast of injured Predators grew in numbers prior to Tuesday night’s home game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, with the names Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg added to the list of Nashville’s wounded, reinforcements were needed from Milwaukee.

The brass at 501 Broadway eschewed the names of some older and more experienced players down on the farm for that of 18-year-old Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round pick (11th overall) in last June’s NHL Entry Draft.

With Cullen not taking part in the morning skate and Stalberg leaving said skate prior to its conclusion, the Predators needed a body, and time was of the essence. Since there are no direct flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, making travel arrangements was a challenge.

But Fiala caught a ride to Chicago in order to get a direct flight to Nashville.

In addition to the airplane flying, there were some butterflies flying around as well.

“I was nervous, very nervous on the flight,” Fiala said. “I was very excited and I just wanted to go to the game.”

When he heard his fellow countryman was coming up to the big club, defenseman Roman Josi gave Fiala a call.

“I just told him to play his game,” Josi said. “He’s here for a reason, and I just told him to play his game. He’s got nothing to lose and I thought he did a great job.”

That call made an impression on Fiala, who looks up to Josi.

“Roman Josi is a very good guy here,” Fiala said. “He’s one of the best defense here. He’s a good friend. He’s a good guy and I like him. He helps me a lot.”

Unlike Admiral teammate Anthony Bitetto in one of his recent call-ups, both Fiala and his equipment made it to Bridgestone Arena in time for the pregame warmup, enabling the 18-year-old St. Gallen, Switzerland native to get a full warmup in before making his NHL debut.

Once the game started, the nerves calmed down a little, but they were still there.

“After the first period, I felt more comfortable than in the first period,” Fiala said. “It went better and better I guess.”

In the game, Fiala was given the assignment of playing on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith. The triumvirate, working title the Fish Cheese Line, clicked well, creating multiple scoring chances from the start of the game.

Their best scoring chance came in the second period in what quickly turned into a 3-on-1.

Carrying the puck out of the Nashville zone, Fiala danced around Tomas Plekanec at the blue line then carried the puck into the Montreal zone on the right side. Fiala then passed to Smith in the high slot before immediately getting the puck back. Rapidly approaching the goal line, Fiala sent a pass to Fisher skating down the left side, where he was unable to connect with the puck.

Friend o’ Rinkside Report @myregularface has the play here:

http://gfycat.com/ifr/HastyPracticalGraywolf

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette liked what he saw from Fiala in his matchup against the Atlantic Division’s top team.

“Things happen when he’s on the ice,” Laviolette said. “He’s a player that when he gets the puck on his stick, you saw some of the things that he did off the rush and in the offensive zone play. The puck sticks to him a little bit and that’s a good thing when you’re an offensive player.”

U.S. astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra (NASA)

After long journey, astronaut brings Pekka Rinne jersey back to Nashville

By Jim Diamond

Four years after making its historic ride into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in early 2011, the Pekka Rinne jersey that flew aboard mission STS-133 has returned to Nashville courtesy of Colonel Tim Kopra (U.S. Army, Ret.), the man who was responsible for its out of this world flight.

Tim Morrell, Kopra’s brother-in-law and day one Predators season ticket holder, had the idea to send the Rinne jersey into space on Discovery, an idea sparked by Canadian astronaut Julie Payette, who brought a Maurice Richard Montreal Canadiens jersey along on STS-127, which was Kopra’s first space flight.

Morrell thought the Rinne jersey would be apropos, since Kopra’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Finland in 1914.

“I’m very proud of the fact that my grandparents came over from Finland way back in 1914 and I grew up with this knowledge of my Finnish heritage,” Kopra said.

In his first trip into space, Kopra brought along a Finnish Kalevala Medal, sent to him by then Finnish president Tarja Halonen. Upon his return, he presented the medal back to the president.

Kopra said that following their retirement, his parents spent a year in Finland researching their genealogy and established connection with several relatives while they were there.

“Now I have 60-70 close or feel-close relatives that live in Finland,” Kopra said. “We had an opportunity after I flew in 2009 to go over there and it was like this family reunion of all these people that I had never met that were actually my blood. After that, I gained a huge appreciation for my Finnish heritage.”

Kopra has gained an appreciation of hockey through Morrell and his wife Beth. Beth Morrell and Kopra’s wife Dawn are sisters. The Morrells brought the Kopras to their first-ever hockey game in 2007 in Nashville.

After several months of delays, STS-133 took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida Feb. 24, 2011, only Kopra was not aboard Discovery when it launched. Prior to the flight, Kopra broke his leg in a bicycling accident, a lower-body injury that meant he had to be scratched from the mission.

“If you have to pick particular lows in a professional career, that would be about as low as you can get because in our business, everything you do is focused on your space flight,” Kopra said. “I’m grateful that it didn’t happen on my first flight because I think it would be even more devastating, but to lose a fly opportunity especially after there have been flight attempts and you are trained up and you are ready to go and you are the lead spacewalker, it was fairly devastating.”

Kopra was unable to fly on Discovery, but the personal items he had arranged to go into space on the mission, including the dark blue Rinne jersey, did make it.

Devastating as it was to not go, Kopra was still able to assist with the mission from the ground. He said the accident also opened the door to his next flight. Launching in November, he will be a flight engineer for Expedition 46 and the commander for Expedition 47, a mission that will keep him in space for six months aboard the International Space Station.

On this trip, Kopra is anticipating there being at least two spacewalks, something he called “a pinnacle” of space flight.

“It’s eye-watering because when you open that hatch, you look down at the planet and it is moving at five miles a second,” he said. “You have to have complete trust in the space suit that you have and your training.”

Asked if he had always dreamed of being an astronaut, Kopra said, “I didn’t think about it until I was about six. It’s really interesting, for a lot of people in our office, they were motivated at a very young age. Something about having a dream that’s captured when you are young really takes you.”

By the time he had reached 18, Kopra thought that the goal of being an astronaut was unachievable. But during Kopra’s first, or plebe, year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, several Apollo astronauts who had graduated from West Point spoke at the school. After hearing them speak, Kopra realized that his childhood dream was achievable.

Kopra is set to meet Rinne following Saturday’s morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. Later that evening, Kopra will drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff prior to Nashville’s game against the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

Kopra has ties to the Nashville area. For three years, he was stationed at Fort Campbell as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.

Colin Wilson scores against the Islanders. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

No panic in Nashville locker room after fifth straight defeat

By Jim Diamond

Five straight losses, and ten straight game allowing the first goal. There is no joy in Smashville right now.

Still atop the Central Division standings with 89 points, the Predators suffered their fifth loss in eight days Thursday night when the visiting New York Islanders escaped snowy Nashville with a 4-3 win.

“It’s not time to panic,” forward Craig Smith said. “Sometimes you are going to have to roll with it. Sometimes you are going to get some bad bounces. It’s just the small things, just a change in perspective and mindset.”

After falling behind 3-1 at the 8:39 mark of the third period, Mike Ribeiro and Smith scored goals 31 seconds apart to draw the game even 3-3. Bridgestone Arena came alive and the Predators seemed to be on their way to possibly ending their recent slide.

But then, another one of those bad bounces happened.

The rebound of Michael Grabner’s shot from the outside came to the slot, right toward Nashville defenseman Seth Jones. But that puck hopped over Jones’ stick and right to Brock Nelson, who squeezed one through Pekka Rinne for the eventual game winner at 13:52.

“I think we create our bounces,” Colin Wilson said. “We’re getting guys to the net like we did on a couple of those goals, that’s how you create your bounces. We’re outshooting them, but we’ve got to get rolling here.”

Wilson scored Nashville’s first goal. That came with just two seconds remaining in the first, a period where the Predators outshot the Islanders 15-5. The problem for Nashville was that the Islanders scored on two of those five shots, once again falling behind as they had in their previous nine games.

“We’ve just got to stop getting down in these games,” Wilson added. “We keep starting off behind and then we keep having to battle back. We keep having great efforts, but we’ve got to start and get those goals.”

It hasn’t helped Nashville’s cause that Rinne has looked human during the team’s recent slide. He allowed New York’s four goals on 26 shots against. The guy many talked about being the frontrunner for the Vezina and possibly even the Hart Trophies for most of this season has dropped four straight decisions an six of his last seven.

Asked if he was concerned about his goaltender and some of the goals that he has allowed recently, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette focused on the group as a whole and not just the 6’5” Finn.

“I really think we’ve got to look at the team,” he said. “We’ll get out of this together. Our guys have done an excellent job of staying tight as a group. There’s lots of things that could have been better tonight as well. We still gave up scoring chances, chances from point-blank in front. There’s things that we could do better and I think it’s important that we stick together right now. It’s probably the most important thing.”

And with 16 games still remaining in the regular season, the Predators have time to work out what is ailing them. They are all but assured of a playoff spot, but limping into the playoffs is not something they want to do.

Ryan Ellis (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Ellis sees limited ice time in return to lineup

By Jim Diamond

After missing 21 games with a lower-body injury, Ryan Ellis returned to the lineup for the Nashville Predators Thursday night in their home game against the Minnesota Wild. Ellis sustained his injury Jan. 8 against Dallas, and his rehab has been a long, slow process.

He has been skating with the team recently and at Thursday’s morning skate proclaimed that he was ready to see game action. In the 4-2 loss to the Wild, Ellis saw just 11:29 of ice time, his lowest total of the season save for the game in which he was injured.

“It was a rough game,” Ellis said. “It was fast-paced. Not playing for seven weeks, obviously it is tough to get back into it, but it’s kind of to be expected.”

With the team’s game-heavy schedule in the month of February, the Predators have not had a lot of practice time where Ellis could get closer to replicating game speed, so it will have to come through game action.

“There’s nothing like a game to prepare yourself,” Ellis said. “You can skate. You can ride the bike as much as you want, but you kind of have to play games to get in that mode.”

Neither Ellis nor Cody Franson saw the ice after the 11:06 mark of the third period. Asked about the pair spending the last half of the third on the bench, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette did not shine a whole lot of light on the situation.

“We were just moving the other four a little bit,” Laviolette said. “We were in a position where we were trying to push. It was just the way the bench rolled I think at the end.”

Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and Mattias Ekholm all played north of 20 minutes in the game, led by Josi’s 27:36.

Homeboys on the Blue Line

Long known for their prowess for drafting and developing defenseman, Ellis’ re-insertion into the lineup meant that all six Nashville blueliners in Thursday’s game were Predator draftees.

Add in the fact that Ryan Suter, the guy who the Bridgestone faithful booed each time he touched the puck per usual, was also a Predators draftee, and seven of the 12 defensemen in the game fit that definition.

As unusual as it is for a team to have all six of its defensemen homegrown, this was not the first time the Predators dressed a defense corps comprised entirely of players who had their name called by David Poile or a member of his front office when they were drafted. On January 9, 2010, Weber and Franson were joined by Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, and Alex Sulzer. In Sunday’s game in Buffalo, Weber, Josi, Jones, Ekholm, Franson, and Anthony Bitetto made up the D corps. 

Anthony Bitetto (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Anthony Bitetto caps an arduous day of travel with a victory

By Jim Diamond

More than a day’s worth of work went into trying to get Anthony Bitetto to Nashville for Tuesday night’s game against the visiting San Jose Sharks, and all that work finally came to fruition, albeit just a little late.

Bitetto was needed back in Nashville for the Predators’ tilt against the Sharks because Anton Volchenkov was unable to go and newly acquired defenseman Cody Franson still does not have the green light to suit up for the Predators due to immigration issues.

Now there are no direct flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, and with weather systems wreaking havoc all over North America, including the one that dumped ice on Middle Tennessee Monday, getting between the two cities was not exactly easy.

After a Monday afternoon flight cancellation, he arrived at the airport at 5:30 Tuesday morning ready to fly to Nashville.

“I had a flight at 6:15 yesterday, cancelled, and then 7:00 am, cancelled,” he said. “I had a flight at 11:15 just delayed forever. It was ridiculous. Sometimes you have to go through adversity like that. It was a long day.”

With a 7:00 pm start time to Nashville’s game, there was little margin for any further delays. He said that Tuesday was the first time he ever had to eat his pregame meal in an airport.

Bitetto landed in Nashville in time to make it to Bridgestone Arena, but his gear, not so much.

“I made the flight and I got to baggage claim, and right now it’s probably 5:15 and the meeting is about to happen and I’m stressing out not sure what’s going on,” he said.

Eventually, the bag was retrieved.

As the team’s warmup skate began, Bitetto was not on the ice. In fact, forward Viktor Stalberg was taking line rushes as Seth Jones’ defensive partner. Bitetto was present on the roster card for the game, but when it began, he was not on the bench.

“I guess warmups aren’t that important,” Bitetto said with a laugh.

As the game neared its first media timeout, Bitetto appeared and took his seat on the bench. That media timeout came at 6:26, and while the ice crew did their flying V cleaning, Bitetto took a couple of spins to loosen up his legs. 32 seconds later, he received his first shift of the game.

“I had to get out there and do a couple of hot laps,” he said. “I think my first shift I had a 2-on-1 and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I’m glad we got the win. That’s the most important thing about it.”

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that getting Bitetto into Nashville was quite the challenge, and that if needed, Stalberg would have gone into the lineup.

“Well, we had one extra player here,” Laviolette said. “There’s nothing really you can do about it. We’ve been trying for what seemed like 30 hours to get him here. The weather’s got everybody on their heels right now, so the fact that he made it here is great. Once he was in the air, we knew he would be here. We knew his equipment would get here at some point and he would join us in the game.”

Bitetto finished with 13:29 of ice time, not too bad for a guy who had been travelling all day, missed warmups, and even the start of the game.

Seth Jones (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Jones, Josi anchor 5-on-3 kill in Predators win

By Jim Diamond

At 8:33 of the third period of Thursday night’s game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, Predators defenseman Victor Bartley was whistled for an interference minor. 29 seconds later, at 9:02, fellow blueliner Shea Weber was sent off for cross-checking, giving the Jets a lengthy two-man advantage of 1:31.

The old adage is that a goaltender is a team’s best penalty killer, but the effort displayed by the two defensemen and two forwards used on that PK was more than impressive in support of Pekka Rinne.

It is fairly customary for teams down two players to use a one forward and two defensemen formation, and that is exactly what Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette did in sending out Mike Fisher up front and Seth Jones and Roman Josi on defense.

After one shot on goal and two more attempts blocked, Gaustad was able to get off in favor of Mike Fisher at 9:48, but Jones and Josi were unable to change. Fisher did his part in the penalty kill, recording three consecutive blocked shots on Winnipeg’s hulking defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the span of 21 seconds.

“That was a huge kill,” Jones said. “Just try to get in some shot lanes and Mike, and Goose, and Jos did a great job as well getting in shot lanes. We didn’t give them really anything, and Pekks made a huge save there in the crease as well.”

Josi, who started his shift after the Bartley penalty at 8:33, came off at 10:35 after Rinne stopped and covered a shot from Andrew Ladd. The shift of 2:02 was just the third-longest of the night for Josi, who also clocked shifts of 3:04 and 2:13 in the game en route to a game-high 28:00 of ice time.

“Fish had a couple of great blocks and we just tried to take the passing lanes away and obviously Pekks in net made a couple of huge saves,” Josi said. “You obviously try to talk a little bit, but it happens pretty fast on the 5-on-3, so you just try to read off each other, try to read off the forward too. Pekks has the shots and we just try to take the passing lanes away.”

Jones’ shift finally ended at 11:06, a lengthy 2:06 from start to finish. With injuries to Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, Jones has inherited much more ice time lately.

“He’s getting an opportunity now with the injuries,” Laviolette said. “He’s got one of those endless oxygen tanks that seems like he could stay out there for two minutes, he could stay out there for a long time, one of those guys that can take on a lot of minutes.

“He’s played great, but now in an expanded role, you really get to see who he is. I’m sure he’s loving it.”

Longs shifts are one thing but penalty-killing shifts that exceed two minutes are exhausting. The young duo of Josi and Jones battled through their long shifts and helped preserve Nashville’s fourth consecutive win.

Anthony Bitetto (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Anthony Bitetto won both a fight and respect in the locker room Tuesday

By Jim Diamond

Hockey’s anti-fighting crowd may not have liked what Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Anthony Bitetto did at 4:13 of the second period of Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Bitteto’s hockey-playing teammates loved it.

Inside Nashville’s blue line, Tampa Bay’s Brett Connolly was working over Craig Smith enough to draw a delayed holding penalty. As Connolly continued while lying on top of Smith, Bitetto skated over and engaged Connolly.

Both men dropped their gloves and Bitetto won the bout in a more than decisive fashion.

“It is part of the game, and it’s something that at times, it’s needed,” Bitetto said. “It was a situation where a skilled guy like Smitty was getting hit or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes the gloves come off and that’s how it goes.”

Bitetto was given an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, negating the power play that they were scheduled to have.

The unsportsmanlike penalty was the officials’ way of saying that Bitetto instigated the fight, but they did not want to be overly punitive of the Island Park, NY native since an instigating minor also carries with it an automatic 10-minute misconduct. The referees saw Connolly on top of Smith and understood that Bitetto was sticking up for a teammate, so they just evened things up penalty wise, and good for them.

“I thought his fight was terrific, well timed,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He jumped in there for his teammate.”

After his seven minutes of penalty minutes were served, Bitetto retuned to the Nashville bench to his teammates standing and banging their sticks on the boards in approval.

“It’s always cool getting that ‘hoo-ha,’ and whatever,” Bitetto said.

Asked if Bitetto earned some respect in the locker room for doing what he did, fellow defenseman Seth Jones didn’t hesitate.

“Hundred percent, hundred percent,” he said. “Guys obviously want to play with someone that’s willing to put themselves on the line such as a fight. He did a great job, and he played a great game as well.”

Yes, Bitetto cost his team a power play. Yes, he was off the ice for seven minutes, leaving the team with just five defensemen. But Bitetto wasn’t playing first pairing minutes by any stretch of the imagination. He played a grand total of 10:09 in the game. That may be down a little from where he would have been had he not spent those seven minutes in the box, but two of those would have been on the power play and he wouldn’t have seen the ice there anyway. In Bitetto’s NHL debut January 17th in Detroit, he played 11:01, and that was in a game the Predators weren’t in basically from the opening faceoff. In short, the other five defensemen probably didn’t mind picking up the extra shift or two.

Was the fight victory responsible for the two goals Nashville scored later on in the second? No.

Did the Predators win because Bitetto fought? Of course not.

But Bitetto went from being a guy the players saw briefly in training camp and briefly in his one previous game this season to a guy willing to stick up for his teammates. That is a personal victory that won’t show up in any standings other than the hockeyfights.com database.

Bitetto may be on the next plane to Milwaukee as soon as Mattias Ekholm is cleared to return to the lineup, but whenever he does go back, he knows that he has the respect of his teammates the next time he is in the Nashville locker room.

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Shea Weber a beneficiary of Taylor Beck’s good listening skills

By Jim Diamond

Jumping over the boards late in the second period, Nashville Predators forward Taylor Beck saw a puck drifting towards him as he headed for the defensive zone of the Rangers.

Less than a minute after Roman Josi tied the game 1-1, the Predators were riding some momentum and looking to take their first lead of the game. With a good look at the net minded by Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot, no one could blame Beck if he took a rip at the puck. But something happened as the puck drifted toward the top of the right faceoff circle.

Beck’s eyes became cartoonishly wide, but he turned and peeled away, and before anyone could blink, Shea Weber stepped in and blasted the puck by Talbot on the far side. Talbot didn’t move as the puck went flying by him. The net was stretched to its absolute limit, so it looked like Beck made the right call on that one.

“I think I heard Webs yell, ‘Leave it,’” Beck said. “He’s got a harder shot than I do, so fortunate enough for him to put it in. I wanted it for a second, but I thought I would leave it for him.

“He’s the best shooter probably in the world, so I want to leave it for him for sure.”

On-ice communication can be difficult sometimes, especially in a full building like Bridgestone was Saturday afternoon. But Beck’s close proximity to Weber helped in that situation.

Weber confirmed that he did yell to Beck.

“I actually said, ‘Leave it,’ as I was winding up,” Weber said. “I didn’t know who it was, I just saw a right-handed shot coming off the bench. I thought I was in pretty good position to shoot it so I decided I would.”

The goal was Weber’s 12th of the season.

As hard as Weber’s slap shot looked in winning the Hardest Shot Contest at last month’s Skills Competition during the All-Star Game weekend in Columbus, Saturday afternoon’s blast looked even harder.

After a tough start to the second period, the goals by Josi and Weber sent the team into the third period up by one.

“I think that was a really important moment in the game because I thought we played a really strong first period and we weren’t quite at our best in the next 15 minutes or so,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We end up going down a goal, and in the last five minutes to be able to pump in two, I think changes the complexion of the game, puts some life in the building, puts some life back in us.”

Despite giving up a goal to Ryan McDonagh early in the third, Mike Ribeiro wired one home at 12:46 of the third, and that one proved to be the game-winner for the Predators.