Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-2

The Predators, for only the seventh time in their history, entered the hostile environment of GM place and skated away with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. This was a huge win for the Predators as they established a great tone for a three game western Canada road swing, but more importantly, leapfrogged the Canucks to move into sole possession of sixth place in the Western Conference with 57 points, one better than the Canucks.

Early in the game, with David Legwand in the box for hooking, Joel Ward stole the puck and broke in on Roberto Luongo and beat him him glove side for the shorthanded goal and a 1-0 lead.  This was his eighth goal of the season, and it certainly swung momentum for the Predators.Ward played a ton of quality minutes tonight, not only on the penalty kill but at even strength, and he is quietly putting together another solid season.

Alexandre Burrows tied the game at one as he beat Dan Hamhuis to the front of the crease on a defensive zone faceoff and put the puck past goaltender Dan Ellis at 16:42 of the period.

The Predators went back on the power play and made the Canucks pay for their on ice transgression. Cody Franson fired a shot from the face off circle that was tipped by David Legwand and then Ryan Jones to beat Luongo on the far post, and the Predators had once again seized momentum at the end of the period. This goal was the result of Jones being parked at the top of the crease, taking a beating to establish position, but his effort was rewarded with the power play marker. Predator hockey- doing the tough things necessary to score.

Alexandre Burrows struck again just 1:30 in to the second period by scoring his second goal of the night, this a power play goal. The score stood tied at 2 for the remainder of the period.

In the third, the teams traded scoring chances as both Ellis and Luongo made great stops to keep the score even. The tempo of this game was good, but really stepped up in the third. The positive aspect is that the Predators skated hard and generated chances. When this team skates like they are capable, they are dangerous and tough to play against.

Late in the period, the game turned in to a penalty fest, as first Ryan Jones was called for hooking at 15:11. Just four seconds in to the Canucks power play, Alexandre Burrows was called for interference. Eighteen seconds later, Henrik Sedin was called for tripping. The Predators had the four on three power play, and they made the Canucks pay as Shea Weber absolutely blew a shot past Louongo for the game winner. The Predators shut down the Canucks for the remainder of the game, with Ellis making some big saves, including an amazing save on a wraparound attempt.

For the game, Ellis was outstanding, stopping 30 of 32 shots, including some great scoring chances, for a .937 save percentage.

As improbable as it seems, the Predators came in to an hostile environment against a team that had been playing red hot hockey and left with the win. This is indicative of the potential of this team. They can play- and win- against the best teams in the NHL. This team is missing some key players in Arnott, Smithson, and Tootoo, yet they refused to yield to the injuries. They played Predator hockey.

It goes without saying that this is not the most talented team in the NHL. Not the fastest, not the leading goal scorers, not the headline grabbers. What this team has is heart and focus, a refusal to give in to conventional wisdom that they shouldn't be here. This is a group of guys that put on the sweater and believe in each other, and when they play with focus and drive like tonight, have a good chance of winning.

The formula for success is simple- grit, doing the dirty work to score, skate hard, and never back down. Tonight, you did that against one of the hottest teams in hockey and came away with the win. Bottle it up and bring it against Calgary. Skate away with another win.

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