NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One of the hardest things for a hockey player – especially a goal-scorer – is to be out of the rhythm of the game and then be called up on to go and produce.
In the final minute of regulation of Nashville's 4-3 overtime win against Anaheim in Game 5, Predators coach Barry Trotz sent right wing J-P Dumont on the ice with goalie Pekka Rinne pulled to try and tie the game – Dumont's first shift in seven or eight minutes, the player said.
Dumont, who did not play in the first four games of the series, only got in the game because of an upper-body injury suffered by Martin Erat in Game 4 that sidelined Erat for Game 5. Dumont finished Game 5 with only 11 shifts – an overtime game, at that -- and less than seven minutes.
However, Trotz knew that Dumont had some deep playoff runs during his days with Buffalo and wanted the 33-year-old's experience out there in that critical situation.
"If Marty was in the game, it would probably be Marty in that situation," Trotz said. "You want that experience … someone who knows those situations. He has a history of finding ways to get a stick on a puck."
On the play in which Nashville ended up tying the game, Mike Fisher won the faceoff and Dumont went to the net, appearing to screen Ducks goalie Ray Emery. Shea Weber's wrist shot from the right point sailed high into the net to Emery's glove side.
"To tell the truth, when I went around the defenseman, I wasn't sure if the puck was on (Cody Franson)'s side or Webby's," said Dumont, who has six goals and six assists in 18 career playoff games with Nashville. "My job was to go in front of the net. We had two guys in front of the net, we had the extra guy. I went behind the (defenseman). When I saw the replay, I saw I screened him pretty good."
Dumont played in 70 games during the season but only in nine after logging 5:23 of time on ice against Dallas on Feb. 26. And he sat out even with injuries to a veteran scorer like Steve Sullivan as younger players like Blake Geoffrion got in the lineup.
"It's not been easy, it's been pretty tough," Dumont said before Sunday's Game 6, in which Nashville had a chance to end the series. "But I always work hard and ready to go. You never want to see one of your guys go down, but that's part of hockey. It's going to happen. You got to get yourself ready and I was ready to jump in and pretty excited to play that game.
"When (Trotz) called my name to take the goalie, I was pretty excited. Just before that, I had a good scoring chance, right in the slot and right on the faceoff that was on my mind – go to the net and maybe the puck will hit me or something – (the goal) was even better. Webby definitely had a great shot. I
know my role and when I'm going to be in, I'm going to work really hard at it."
Throughout the series, even when Dumont was out of the lineup, Trotz praised Dumont for being a professional. Meeting with reporters two hours before the start of Sunday's game, Trotz would not reveal whether Erat would return, which could send Dumont back out of the lineup. Trotz instructed reporters to watch pregame warm-ups. However, he did say that Erat is "progressing quite well."
In putting Dumont in Friday's key situation, Trotz said he went with a "gut feeling" and "luck."
"Every time I've sat J-P out," Trotz said, "he seems to score in his first game back."
Or at least be on the ice for a key goal.