The Predators came in to the game with the Columbus Blue Jackets with four key players out of the line up, and this game shaped up as a trap game for the Preds. Playing in Columbus against a team that desperately wanted to reverse their fortunes, this contest shaped up as one that could give the Predators fits.
Raffi Torres scored off a rebound to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead, and the way the game progressed, it appeared that the BJ's would finally end their futility against the Predators as they kept them bottled up all night. Matthieu Garon made some key saves when called upon, and the Predators were stymied offensively for much of the game.
That would change in the third period when Joel Ward worked hard to corral the puck along the boards and flipped a perfect pass to Andreas Theuresson who was alone in the low slot. He roofed a puck past Garon to tie the game at one. The score remained tied heading in to overtime.
Just :28 seconds in to the extra period, Joel Ward again dug out a puck and got it to David Legwand, who went high over Garon's shoulder, and the Predators skated away with another victory over the Jackets by a 2-1 score.
With this victory, the Predators have run their record to 22-2-1 over the BJ's over the last four years.
With so many starters out of the line up, it would have been easy to say this game wasn't meant to be for the Predators. It was a game that could have easily gone into the loss column, and one could look at the line up and say that a loss was to be expected. Players out due to injury and playing in a hostile environment were not factors that were in the Predators favor.
What was in their favor, however, was the heart and fight in this team. When key players were missing from the line up, it was incumbent on the call ups to step in and play quality hockey. And play quality hockey they did. Players that were thrust in to key role stepped in and played solid hockey. Players contributed that were not expected to contribute, and because of their effort, the Preds now have 51 points and 24 wins.
Since October 28, the Predators are 21-8-2. This has happened because this team has the heart of a champion. They have grit. They don't quit. They get contributions from all lines. This team isn't flashy. They don't garner a ton of accolades. All they do is win.
Dan Ellis steps in and stops 31 of 32 shots. Andreas Theuresson scores his first NHL goal. David Legwand steps up in overtime and pots the game winner. Joel Ward does the dirty work to set up both goals. Unheralded, this team is the sum of its parts, all meshing together to get wins.
This team was not expected to be where it is today. Winning games and in the playoff hunt. Tied for 5th in the Western Conference. However, this team believes in itself, in each other, and in their system. They now know that when they go out and play the style of hockey for which they are built, they can win.
You can cite the All-Stars and the Olympians that each team has. You can cite statistics and leading scorers. What you cannot measure is the heart, the drive, and the desire of a team. This team has those characteristics in an abundance. Keep up this style of play, boys, and you will continue to confound the experts. and you will find yourself in the playoffs.