CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Tommy Novak scored the deciding goal in the shootout and the Nashville Predators beat the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Monday night to preserve their playoff hopes.
Zach Sanford and Egor Afanasyev also scored for the Predators, who have two home games remaining in the regular season - on Thursday against Minnesota and Friday against Colorado.
“I’m not really sure exactly the scenarios, but we’ve just got to keep our foot on the pedal and try to win two games and give ourselves the best chance,” Novak said.
Juuse Saros stopped 42 shots through overtime and three of four in the shootout.
“He means everything to this group,” Novak said. “He’s amazing every night. Literally every night, he keeps us in every game. He gives us a chance to win even in games we’re getting kind of streamrolled a little bit sometimes.”
Troy Stecher and Mikael Backlund scored for the Flames, and Jacob Markstrom finished with 27 saves.
Jonathan Huberdeaul scored on the first attempt of the shootout for the Flames. Cody Glass tied it in the third round for the Predators, and Novak won it in the fourth round.
The Winnipeg Jets beating the San Jose Sharks earlier Monday meant both Calgary and Nashville needed the win at the Saddledome to stay mathematically alive for the postseason.
Calgary’s 17 overtime and shootout losses is the most in the NHL.
“We felt like we were in almost every game this year and we just didn’t manage to get that goal when we needed a goal,” Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson said. “You take half the OT losses we’ve lost this year, shootout, and we’re in (the playoffs) by a few points. It’s a do league. It’s not a what-if league. Coming home tonight and waking up tomorrow, that’s when you’re going to realize that we’re out."
Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar couldn’t convert a pair of chances and Andersson couldn’t hit an open top-corner target in overtime.
“Too bad. Thought we deserved better. Good chances in overtime. Fight back in the third to tie it. Tough,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said.
Nashville led 1-0 after the opening period. Afanasyev scored the first NHL goal of his career at 5:49. Predators forward Mark Jankowski chased the puck behind Calgary’s net. The former Flames player fed the 22-year-old Afanasyev in the slot to sweep the puck in far side.
Stecher tied it at 7:41 of the second period within seconds of Calgary killing off a Huberdeau tripping minor. With Huberdeau providing a screen, the defenseman threaded a rising shot through traffic over Saros’ shoulder.
Sanford put the Predators ahead 2-1 at 4:02 of the third. Markstrom made an initial save on Glass, but dragged the puck into the crease with his right pad for Sanford to bang into the net.
Backlund tied it at 8:03 as he finished a tick-tack-toe passing play from Huberdeau and Andrew Mangiapane and threaded a shot under Saros’ right armpit.
Nashville won all three meetings in the season series against Calgary.
Predators: Host Minnesota on Thursday night.
Flames: Host San Jose on Wednesday night in the season finale.
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