PHILADELPHIA (AP)Matt Duchene scored 34 seconds into overtime, Juuse Saros made 23 saves and the Nashville Predators defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Saturday.
Nino Niederreiter scored in regulation for the Predators, who lost top scorer Filip Forsberg for the game after he took a hard hit late in the first period. Nashville entered play four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which dropped to 2-10 past regulation this season. Carter Hart made 23 saves but couldn’t stop Nashville’s lone shot in the extra session.
Ryan Johansen set up the game-winner with a drop pass to Duchene, whose wrist shot from the slot went off defenseman Cam York and under Hart’s left pad.
The teams were slow to get going on a rare 12:30 p.m. start. But things heated up substantially after Philadelphia defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen’s crushing check of Forsberg. Forsberg, who tops the Predators with 19 goals and is tied for the team lead with 42 points, appeared to hit his head on the ice after absorbing the hard but clean contact. He did not return.
Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot responded with his own hard hit on Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov at the outset of the second period, and Jeannot and the Flyers’ Nick Deslauriers then fought a spirited duel, with both players landing clean shots. The physical play continued throughout the second period, with the Predators taking every opportunity to finish checks on Ristolainen – and any other Flyers skater.
After Juuso Parssinen sent Philadelphia’s Noah Cates headfirst into the boards at center ice, Flyers forward Joel Farabee – not one of the team’s heavy hitters – responded by dropping the gloves with Parssinen in the second fight of the period. Later in the frame, Nashville’s Jeremy Lauzon delivered two hard hits on one shift, sending Scott Laughton to the bench limping after a check into the corner boards before an open-ice hit on Travis Konecny left the Flyers’ top scorer sprawling backward to the ice.
Oh, there was some scoring in the period, too.
Niederreiter put Nashville ahead 1-0 1:43 into the frame with a deft, backhanded deflection from close range after a stellar setup by Duchene. Hayes answered just under nine minutes later, using some nifty stick skills on a breakaway to set up a backhanded finish. Farabee sprang Hayes into a one-on-one situation, with Saros with an excellent pass from just beyond the blue line.
Neither team could get the go-ahead in the third despite lots of chances. Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm hit the post with a slap shot, and Mark Jankowski drew iron with 11:15 remaining in regulation. Between those chances, Philadelphia’s Owen Tippett fired a wrister off the post. Parssinen had an opportunity from close range that Hart denied with a solid save. Hayes had a chance on another breakaway with under five minutes to play in the period, but his shot sailed over the net.
NOTES: Philadelphia fans broke out in 13 ”E-A-G-L-E-S!” Philadelphia Eagles chants ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl. . The teams finished the regular-season series tied at 1-apiece after the Flyers defeated the Predators in Nashville on Oct. 22. . Philadelphia fell to 11-13-3 at home while Nashville improved to 11-11-3 on the road.
Predators: Host Arizona on Monday night.
Flyers: Host Seattle on Sunday.
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