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 but lost top scorer Filip Forsberg in the first period after he took a hard late hit.
Nino Niederreiter scored in regulation for the Predators, who 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.
The teams finished with 83 combined hits in a contest that turned extremely physical after the first period.
“We’re in a tight playoff race, and our mindset is we have to come in and battle and compete,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “Both teams have some physical players, and that’s how the game played out. There’s a certain intensity level and focus level that we need to be able to play with here coming down the stretch. And tonight was a typical example of how hard games are going to be.”
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.
“(Duchene) took over from there and got it done,” Johansen said.
Hart said he should have made the save in spite of the deflection. “A goal you have to stop,” he said.
The teams were slow to get going following a 12:30 p.m. start. But things heated up after Philadelphia defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen’s 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.
“I thought it was a clean hit,” Ristolainen said. “Unfortunate result.”
Hynes did not provide an update on Forsberg after the game.
“That kind of started it all,” Johnansen said of the physical play. “Something our group didn’t like. Our team stuck together, played for each other, played hard and got a nice result.”
Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot responded with a hard hit on Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov at the outset of the second period, and Jeannot and the Flyers’ Nick Deslauriers then fought, with both players landing clean shots. The physical play continued throughout the 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 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.
Flyers coach John Tortorella has tried to establish a tough, hard-nosed identity in his first year at the helm. Philadelphia entered leading the NHL in hits, and the coach liked the way his team responded Saturday.
“That’s what the team has developed into,” he said. “I think all that stuff helps the room, helps that team aspect of it and I think it’s grown as the year has gone on.”
Niederreiter put Nashville ahead 1-0 1:43 into the frame with a backhanded deflection from close range after a 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 goal in the third despite lots of chances.
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.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.