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.