NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators are glad captain Shea Weber managed to play with an upper body injury that sent him out of their previous game.
Weber scored two goals, including the game-winner at 1:29 of overtime, and the Predators rallied late in beating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Friday night.
“It’s going to take a lot to keep him out of a hockey game,” Predators forward David Legwand said of the big defenceman. “He loves playing the game and shows that over the course of his career. He was big for us tonight. Obviously on the first one and in overtime, two huge goals.”
Weber didn’t practice Thursday and was a game-time decision after leaving Tuesday night’s win in Winnipeg early in the third period. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Weber deciding to play made all the difference.
“He’s one of the best at his position plain and simple,” Trotz said. “He’s our building block, and he’s a difference maker in this business. There aren’t too many guys at his level.”
Legwand scored with 10.8 seconds remaining in regulation with goalie Carter Hutton on the bench to force the extra period.
The puck squirted out to Legwand, who scored on a slap shot from the right circle. Hutton, who struggled giving up the two goals to New Jersey, stopped Michael Ryder on a breakaway 80 seconds into overtime to keep the game tied.
“It is good to get the win obviously,” Weber said. “It took us 60 minutes to get it tied up, but we found a way. We battled hard and got it tied up. Obviously, Hutton made a huge save in overtime and gave us a chance to win.”
Then Colin Wilson took the puck back the other way and drove toward the net before dropping the puck off to Weber, who beat Cory Schneider with a wrister from the left circle.
“We played four games in six nights,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We got an unfortunate bounce at the end, and we’ll take the point and move on.”
Patrik Elias scored a goal and had an assist, and Jaromir Jagr had a goal for the Devils. Travis Zajac had two assists.
Out of the 16 games played between these teams, this was the 13th decided by a goal.
This was a rare visit to Nashville with the Devils playing only their 10th game here Friday night and first since Oct. 15, 2011.
The Devils, who beat Nashville 5-0 in New Jersey on Nov. 10, wrapped up a three-game road trip against the Western Conference with their second game in as many nights after beating the Stars in overtime in Dallas on Thursday night.
“It’s tough two nights in a row … giving up a lead in the last minute, and we should’ve had an extra point tonight again,” Schneider said.
The Predators want to build some momentum before the Olympic break, and they have earned points in five of six games going 4-1-1. They had a couple days off since their last game and outshot the Devils 9-3 in the opening minutes and 33-26 for the game.
Weber gave Nashville a 1-0 lead after the first period, beating Schneider with a slap shot 6:45 into the game off an assist from Patric Hornqvist.
New Jersey tied it at 13:00 of the second when Elias came skating up the left side and fired off a shot that might have gone wide if not for Hutton trying to snag it with his glove. The puck glanced off Hutton’s glove and redirected into the net for a goal.
Jagr got his 17th goal this season late in the second putting the Devils ahead 2-1. Jagr skated behind the net and fired a wrister that hit off Hutton and slipped between the goalie and the left post for a 2-1 lead at 18:59 of the second. But the Predators gave Hutton a chance to make up for those goals in overtime.
Notes: Jagr has 698 career goals. … Weber leads all defencemen with 15 goals, and eight have come in the first period. Nashville is 11-1-2 when Weber scores. … Nashville is 19-2-5 when scoring first this season and just 2-22-2 when trailing after two periods. … The Devils are 7-1-2 in Nashville.