NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Facing a Predators team with an inexperienced defense, a rookie netminder and a depleted lineup, it should have been easier for the Flyers.
Instead, the Flyers largely limped their way to a 3-2 victory in a shootout, an outcome that would not have been possible if not for yet another strong outing by goalie Steve Mason.
Mason stopped 34 of 36 Predators shots and stopped all three shooters he faced in the shootout.
Vinny Lecavalier scored the Flyers' lone goal in the shootout -- the only one they needed thanks to Mason.
Though the Flyers were never heavily outplayed as far as the numbers were concerned (they were neck-and-neck in shots for most of the game, and tied 1-1 until the third period), they were on their heels for far too much of Saturday’s affair. Whereas they had all the energy they needed just over 24 hours ago in their win over the Winnipeg Jets, they looked a lot more like the listless Flyers team that fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers earlier this week.
The Predators were without captain Shea Weber, but the Flyers spent most of Saturday’s game in their own zone. They appeared flat-footed and disorganized at times -- two qualities they’ve largely improved upon since Craig Berube took over as head coach. It truly was Mason who kept them in the game.
With the win, the Flyers’ record (12-12-2) returns to .500 and their record on the road hits .500 as well (5-5-2).
Their longest road trip of the season continues Monday in Minnesota against the Wild.
Claude Giroux kicked off Saturday’s scoring with a slapshot at 16:49 of the first period, but the Flyers’ lead was short-lived. Exactly one minute later, Predators center Mike Fisher tied it up thanks to some poor defensive work by the Flyers.
After a scoreless second stanza, the Predators took the lead when center Colin Wilson skated past Jakub Voracek 5:05 into the third period. Sean Couturier tied it up again thanks to a pretty no-look pass from Andrej Meszaros.
Lecavalier lifted one over goaltender Marek Mazanec's shoulder in the shootout.
Call it a Thanksgiving hangover if you’d like, but the Flyers started Saturday’s game lacking energy. Berube keys in on starts and finishes as the most important parts of any game, but the Flyers didn’t have much jump early and didn't improve much throughout the game. If not for Mason, it could have been a much rougher outcome after the first 20 minutes.
The man couldn’t be much more consistent this season, and Saturday was no exception.
Once again, Mason was sharp when he needed to be and kept his team in the game. He was particularly impressive in the first period, when he stopped two Predators odd-man rushes and then robbed Matt Hendricks of a point-blank shot on the doorstep.
Predators or prey?
Saturday’s version of the Predators lineup was a shell of the team the Preds started the season with. Not only was captain Shea Weber out of the lineup, but another strong D-man, Kevin Klein, missed the game, too. Same goes for left winger Rich Clune. Goaltender Pekka Rinne remains on injured reserve as he recovers from a hip infection.
Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek were originally credited with assists on Giroux’s first-period goal -- which seemed odd, given that the puck ricocheted out to him thanks to a blocked pass. Before the start of the second period, the goal was changed to unassisted.
Brayden Schenn took a puck to the cheek in the second period and fell to the ice, hard. He was able to get up under his own power, and though he hustled down the tunnel to receive some medical attention, he was able to return to the game just a few minutes later.
Discipline was a bit of an issue for the Flyers on Saturday night. In all, they incurred five penalties, including three in the second period.
While their penalty kill kept up its recent success, the Flyers made it harder on themselves to get into a rhythm and generate any offensive pressure. They did, however, manage to put a few shots of their own on Nashville’s net during their penalty kills.
Heading into the game, the Flyers and Predators had alternated victories in each of their past five meetings. On Saturday, that trend ceased.
The Flyers play the first of a two-game season series with the Wild. Puck drop for Monday in Minnesota is set for 8 p.m.