If Nashville and Vegas meet in the postseason, Predators coach Peter Laviolette shouldn’t have a problem choosing his starting goaltender.
Juuse Saros owns the Golden Knights.
Saros made a career-high 47 saves and improved to 3-0 against Vegas as Nashville topped the Golden Knights 2-1 on Wednesday night.
“Saw a lot of pucks, that’s always nice, most of them I got to see and the guys played good,” said Saros, who has a .982 save percentage (stopping 113 of 115 shots) and a 0.66 goals-against-average. “They’re a really good team, fast team, pressure. It wasn’t lucky that they were in the (Stanley Cup) final last year. We wanted to finish strong these last two road games and be happy about our game.”
Nick Bonino notched his first game-winning goal of the season for the Predators, who won 4-1 in Colorado on Monday, and are now in a first-place tie with Winnipeg in the Central Division, both with 64 points.
With the game tied at 1, Austin Watson poked the puck through a small crease between the corner of the goal and the back of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s skate to Bonino, who was wide open in the slot for an easy goal 3:53 into the second period. And, Saros made the lead stand the rest of the way.
“That one was just a good bounce, a good forecheck from (Calle Jarnkrok) and (Watson),” said Bonino, who has six goals and four assists in his last nine contests. “It’s not easy to get them by Flower. It’s easy when he’s out of the net. We needed a win and go on a break with a good taste in our mouth and get ready to go.”
Ryan Johnson also scored for the Predators, who rank fifth in the NHL in goals allowed (134), and second in the league in goals-against per game (2.58).
“(Saros) was unreal. … He was outstanding today and I thought we played an amazing defensive game,” Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. “I know we were outnumbered in shots, but they had a lot of power plays and got pucks to the net and they had a couple shifts where they cycled and got six or seven shots off, but Juice was on his game and that’s the story with our team over the past couple years. When we don’t play our best, our goaltenders bail us out most of the time.”
Nashville, which stopped Vegas on all four of its power-play opportunities, is 2-0 against the Golden Knights this season after winning the first meeting 4-1 on Oct. 30.
Despite a 20-7-3 run since Nov. 21, Vegas has lost four of six. The Golden Knights, who lost Monday at home to Minnesota, had not lost back-to-back games at home all season.
“It sucks to lose, you’ve got to win those types of games,” Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You saw throughout the game how many chances both teams were getting. It’s tough right before the break to lose like that.”
Max Pacioretty scored for Vegas, while Fleury made 25 saves.
The Golden Knights head into the All-Star break in third place in the Pacific Division with 62 points, behind Calgary and San Jose, respectively.
The most spirited play of the game came in the second period, during a scrum in front of the net, where Subban claimed Vegas forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare bit him on the finger. Subban said while he did reach around Bellemare’s head to try to pull him away from Saros, he did not put his finger anywhere near his mouth.
“All I tried to do was grab him. I grabbed him by the head to pull him up and he bit me, so that’s it,” said Subban, who was ultimately assessed two penalties: for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I walk out of there with four minutes in penalties. They tried to apologize after the fact, but they already gave me four minutes in penalties. My finger is bleeding.
“It just is what it is. It’s the last game before the break for us and I’m just focused on playing the game. The last thing you want to do is change the focus of our team there. We won the game, so I forgot about it after that.”
Bellemare insisted Subban put his hand near his mouth and removed his mouth guard.
“He tried to pull me up, so obviously he’s feeling teeth and he’s acting on it,” Bellemare said. “I don’t know what to tell you, really.”
When asked about Subban’s claims that he bit his finger, Bellemare said: “I mean, if you put your hand all the way in the mouth … and you pull up, you’re going to feel the teeth.”
NOTES: The 18,477 in attendance was the third-largest crowd in franchise history for the Golden Knights. … Vegas’ Gerard Gallant coached his 461st game and is one game shy of tying Tom McVie for 77th place on the NHL’s career list. Gallant ranks 65th with 232 victories. … Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne remains one win from a tie for 24th on the league’s career wins list with Harry Lumley (330). … Both Rinne and Fleury are tied for 21st on the NHL’s all-time shutout list with 54, along with Bernie Parent and Ed Giacomin. … With his assist, Stastny is on a five-game points streak (one goal, six assists).
Nashville: At Florida on Feb. 1.
Vegas: At Carolina on Feb. 1.