The Predators began a four game road trip with an auspicious start, dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to the New York Islanders for a 4-3 loss. In a game that the Predators could have won and captured the critical two points, they wilted in the face of the pressure that the Islanders brought and gave away a point. How this loss affects the team for the rest of this road trip remains to be seen.
Playing in the aging but historic Nassau Colisseum, the Predators faced an Islanders team that brought an agressive forecheck and pressure all night. Scoreless at the end of one period, at times the Predators looked fortunate just to get the puck in the zone. The first period was a period of punch and counterpunch by both teams. Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators and was called upon to make some good saves early.
Marty Biron was in net for the Islanders and made some good saves to keep the score tied at zero. At times, both teams generated good pressure. At times, each team looked inept getting the puck in the offensive zone and setting up a quality attack.
Predator fans held their collective breath as Ryan Suter took a Shea Weber slap shot off his foot. Although he finished his shift, he left the bench with trainer Dan Redmond and headed to the locker room. Shades of Jordin Tootoo! Predator fans were left wondering about the condition of Suter, but fortunately he returned to the bench after some time in the locker room and was able to play the rest of the game.
One had to wonder which team would break through first, and the question was answered early in the second period as Freddy Meyer gathered in a rebound of a Rob Schremp shot and he slipped the puck past an out of position Rinne.
The Predators thought they had responded on a Patric Hornqvist goal, but it was waved off because the referees deemed that he had kicked the puck into the goal. The Preds kept up the pressure in the offensive zone, and Cal O'Reilly was rewarded for his hard work around the net with his first NHL goal to tie the game at 1. O'Reilly has looked more comfortable with each game played and has shown that he belongs with the big club.
The Predators took a 2-1 one lead on a breakaway goal by Joel Ward, his second such goal in as many games. Ward continues his strong play and has been rewarded on the score sheet, but his strength on the puck is exceptional and his game is just plain solid.
With Jerred Smithson in the box for interference, Shea Weber was called for cross checking just :20 into the PK. Bruno Gervais scored at 19:12 of the second to tie the game on the 5 on 3 power play and send the Isles into the locker room with some momentum.This game had an eerily similar feeling to the Sharks game on Saturday, with both teams trading scoring chances and ultimately goals. As a Predator fan, you had to hope that it wouldn't turn out like that Sharks game where a mistake would cost you points.
The Predators once again reclaimed a one goal lead on a one timer by Steve Sullivan on the power play at 4:12 of the third period. Good to see the power play click this time, although at times the PP was, in a word, inept.It was especially good to see Sully getting back on the scoresheet and finding the back of the net. This team needs him to heat up.
You know how I said that this game looked eerily similar to the Sharks game? Well, a dumb penalty put the Sharks, uh, I mean the Islanders on the power play. Marty Erat was called for a stupid boarding penalty that was completely unnecessary at 19:14 of the third period. With Biron pulled for the extra attacker, the Isles scored on the six on four power play with :11 seconds left in the game. ELEVEN seconds! Eleven freakin' seconds away from a critical win and two precious points. And because of another dumb penalty.
The overtime was a scoreless affair, and both teams were now headed to the shootout.
Frans Nielsen was the first shooter for the Isles, and he scored on a beautiful move to the backhand to beat Rinne. Steve Sullivan and David Legwand were stopped by Biron, and Rinne stoned Rob Schremp and Matt Moulson. needing to score to extend the shootout, Marty Erat absolutely undressed Biron to tie the shootout at 1. The next shooter for the Isles, John Tavares, scored. Patric Hornqvist failed on his attempt, and the Isles had the second point that the Predators so desperately needed.
In December, the Predators put together a string of wins that was predicated on hard work and smart hockey. I can't fault the effort of the Preds- they skated hard at times and generated some chances. But it is one or two dumb plays that is biting them in the ass. The boarding penalty that Erat took was completely unnecessary, and in a word, stupid. And it cost this team a point.
The margin between winning and losing now is razor thin. Every team is playing desperate hockey and fighting for the two points. The Predators do not have the talent to overcome dumb penalties. They do not have the talent to take off a shift. They have demonstrated that they have the talent to win when they play Predator hockey- Gritty, determined, SMART hockey.
Guys, the points are way too valuable to just give them away. And the road isn't going to get any easier as tomorrow night you will face another desperate hockey team. They want those two points that are out there, and you can't give it to them.
Time to play smart hockey. You're too deep into the season and too close to the prize to give away games and points. You have three games before the Olympic break and six points on the line. Be smart and go get those points