The Nashville Predators faced the Anaheim Ducks in a contest that took on the appearance of a hard skating squad being stymied by a hot goaltender. Jonas Hiller of the Ducks faced a lot of rubber but was solid in net, turning away a number of shots by the Predators. One had to wonder if the Predators were going to be able to get a goal past the Ducks netminder.
With a one goal lead on a goal by Mike Brown at 7:45 of the first period, the Ducks were clinging to the one goal lead while Hiller was stopping numerous quality chances by the Predators. That would change in the second period as Shea Weber lasered a shot to the top corner at 15:27 of the second to tie the game. Weber lead all Predators with ten shots on goal. His blast brought renewed energy to the Predators and all of a sudden we had a game at the Sommet Center.
The Predators first score of the game came with the home team continuing to apply pressure on the Ducks. Weber's score came on the third shot on net in an eleven second span. The Predators kept pressure on the Anaheim net for much of the night, and were rewarded with the goal as they kept firing the puck on the net with traffic in front. Predator hockey had produced another score.
Jason Arnott potted his first goal in ten games at the 10:11 mark of the third period as he beat Hiller high to the stick side. Hiller had done a good job of taking away the lower part of the net all night, and the Predators were finally able to solve his goaltending prowess by shooting high. It was good to see the Captain get off the schneid and get the goal. Jason has had numerous scoring chances, but has been unable to bury them, so it was good to see the drought finally broken.
The Predators faced pressure from the Ducks for the entire third period, and were outshot 9 to 4 for the period. David Legwand iced the game with an empty netter at the 20:00 minute point of the third, scoring as the horn went off, and the Predators skated away with their third win in a row with a 3-1 victory.
If the Predators had lost another Saturday night game in their third jerseys, there should have been a ceremonial third jersey burning as suggested by my friend Buddy Oakes. Fortunately, that does not have to happen.
When you look at this win, several things stand out. The young guys that have been called up have played some quality minutes for the Predators. Andreas Thuresson impressed tonight. He was strong on the puck and aggressive on the forecheck, and he appears to getting more comfortable with his game. Patric Hornqvist continues to play strong in front of the net, and has become a serious distraction for other teams. Nick Spaling played some quality minutes on the PK. All of these players have contributed when called upon, and have played solid minutes for the Preds.Plug them in to the system, give them opportunity, and watch them respond. Predator hockey.
It goes without saying that this team is not fancy or flashy. They are workmanlike. They bring their luch pails and play blue collar hockey. And they win.
With this win, the Predators are now 25-14-3 and have 53 points. They are tied for fifth in the Western Conference with Calgary, who comes to town on Tuesday night. This from a team that doesn't excel on special teams and was not expected to be in the playoff hunt. Tonight, this team continued to play Predator hockey- they never stopped coming at Anaheim. That pressure, that relentlessness, paid off in another win for a team that isn't supposed to be where they are in the standings.
There is a lot of hockey yet to be played, and the Predators have to continue to play their style of hockey to be successful. This team has shown resiliency, they have shown they can deal with adversity, and they have shown that when they play their system, they can play with anyone.
Tough games coming up, boys. A lot of hockey to be played. Keep on playing the hard, relentless style of hockey that you are now playing, and chalk up the wins. And continue to surprise the hockey world when you make the playoffs.