CALGARY — Tommy Novak’s shootout winner kept the Nashville Predators’ playoff hopes alive, while the Calgary Flames’ aspirations were snuffed out in yet another overtime loss Monday.
Novak finished off Nashville’s 3-2 win in the fourth round of extra shots.
Zach Sanford and Egor Afanasyev also scored for the Predators (41-31-8), who have two home games remaining in the regular season — on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and Friday versus the Colorado Avalanche.
The Winnipeg Jets beating the San Jose Sharks 6-2 earlier Monday meant both Calgary and Nashville needed the win at the Saddledome to stay mathematically alive for the post-season.
The Jets (45-32-3) have two games remaining in their regular season, and a game in hand on the Flames.
Winnipeg is on the road against the Wild on Tuesday and the Avalanche on Thursday.
“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.
Predators goalie Juuse Saros stopped 42 of 44 shots in regulation and OT, 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 in regulation and Jonathan Huberdeau in the shootout for the Flames (37-27-17), who close out their season Wednesday against the visiting Sharks.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 of 29 shots in regulation and OT in front of 17,359 at the Saddledome.
Cody Glass and Novak scored on him in the shootout.
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 defenceman 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 and it sucks.”
Flames defenceman 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 head coach Darryl Sutter said.
Sanford gave the Predators a 2-1 third-period lead at 4:02, but Backlund tied the game at 8:03.
Backlund finished a tick-tack-toe passing play from Huberdeau and Andrew Mangiapane by threading a shot under Saros’ right armpit.
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.
Stecher knotted the score 1-1 at 7:41 of the second period within seconds of Calgary killing off a Huberdeau tripping minor.
With Huberdeau providing a screen, the defenceman threaded a rising shot through traffic over Saros’ shoulder
The visitors 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 Flame fed the 22-year-old Afanasyev in the slot to sweep the puck in far side.
Nashville was scoreless on six power-play chances and Calgary was 0-for-5.
NOTES: Nashville took the season series against Calgary 3-0. … The Preds were minus defenceman Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene (upper body), as well as centre Ryan Johansen (lower body). … Calgary’s power play is 2-for-15 in April.
The Flames conclude their regular season at home Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks.
The Nashville Predators have two home games left to play against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2023.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press