The Preds drop a 3-2 decision to the Sharks, taking the home team to a shootout to gain another vital point and remain in the 8th playoff spot in the West. The physicality of the Sharks was on display all night as the Sharks used their size and ability to control the puck to fire rubber all night at Pekka Rinne. The Preds were playing the second of back to back games and were coming off an overtime loss to Anaheim, and this would have been an easy game to go into the tank (sorry for the bad pun). Instead, this team battled all night, and had some good scoring chances in the third for a chance to capture the second point. After a 2-2 first period, the D solidified and held the potent Shark attack off the boards for the remaining two periods and the overtime period. Untimely and undisciplined penalties cost the Preds as SJ scored on a 5-3 power play for the first tally of the game. Joel Ward continued his strong play with a power play goal, and Vern Fiddler atoned for an earlier penalty with a breakaway shorthanded goal to give the Preds a 2-1 lead. San Jose scored with 3.1 seconds left in the first as they pushed a puck past Rinne in goal mouth scramble. From there on, it was a defensive contest that ebbed and flowed with both goalies coming up with big stops in the remaining two periods. Rinne was beaten twice in the shootout, with Jonathan Cheechoo getting the game winner.
As the game went on, I expected the Sharks to wear down a depleted Preds squad. This team played last night with grit, heart, and character. These players realize what is at stake in every game, and they responded with an effort that garnered another point. Sure, two points would have been ideal, but this team picked up 6 of a possible 8 points in some very tough barns- places that have in the past been a house of horrors for this team. They showed me what they are made of in this game and on this trip, and should be commended for their effort.
About the fight between Toots and Staubitz: Toots fearlessly took on a tough guy that had a sizeable size advantage and stood toe to toe with him. Staubitz got in some shots with his fists AND his elbows, and left Toots bloodied and injured. He was able to return and take regular shifts in the third. Trainer Dan Redmond told me after the game that Toots has a badly broken nose, but is expected to play when the Preds take the ice against Anaheim on Tuesday. Getting patched up and playing in the third after this fight is the epitome of heart and courage, friends.
Some observations from last night's game:
The Shark Tank was sold out (17,996) and this was by far the most engaged and energetic crowd of the entire road trip. The San Jose fans are vocal and knowledgeable; most of the crowd wore Sharks sweaters, and they were loud and spontaneous. HP Pavilion is a non-descript and sterile arena from the outside and is not much different on the inside. Being in Silicon Valley, they have wonderful technical displays and visuals in the arena, and they have a surfeit of corporate sponsorships and promotions. This is a great venue for hockey- the sight lines are good and the acoustics are great. Overall, the plainness of the venue notwithstanding, this is a good barn in which to watch a hockey game.
The Preds have some time off before they hit the ice again on Tuesday. I was talking to the coaches on the plane back to Nashville, and they think Radek Bonk will most likely be ready to go on Tuesday. Jason Arnott could still be questionable for Tuesday's game as he is still feeling some concussion like symptoms. Belak's status is still unknown as of this writing.
We will face these same teams again in our barn next week, and it is imperative that we protect our home ice. I think the guys will respond to the challenge. Pred fans should take heart from the effort that this team put forth on this road trip and be prepared to bring the noise and energy that our team feeds on when they are in our barn.
In the upcoming posts, I will have some pictures from the road, as well as what I hope is an interesting (and humorous) post about things heard on the road.