Sunday, March 21, 2010

Predators Refuse to Lose, Come Back to Beat the Blues 3-2

The Nashville Predators extended their winning streak to six games by surviving a listless first period to thwart the Blues in St. Louis by a 3-2 margin. The Predators victory continued the Blues home ice misery, as the loss ran the Blues home record to 12-18-1, while the Predators notched their sixth consecutive win.

St. Louis came out with good jump and put pressure on the Predators is their offensive zone. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, getting the start after playing the night before at home against Columbus, was called upon to make some big saves early to hold the Blues off the board.

The Blues finally broke through at 16:28 of the first on the power play. The Predators had a chance to clear the puck, but it was held in at the blue line by David Perron. He passed to Andy MacDonald in the slot, who then found Carlo Colaiacovo streaking in uncontested to Rinne's right. He fired a shot that Rinne barely got a piece of, but it went under the crossbar for a 1-0 Blues lead.

At the end of the first period, the Blues had outshot the Predators 12-10 and had more jump. When the Predators got scoring opportunities, Blues tender Chris Mason was able to come up with the save. For the Predators to have an opportunity to win the game, the intensity was going to have to improve in the second period and they were going to have to work harder to generate quality scoring chances.

The Predators did just that, as they outshot the Blues 13-6 and generated some quality scoring chances. Mason was equal to the task until 15:03 of the period. Jordin Tootoo worked hard in the corner to fight for control of the puck. He spied Dustin Boyd coming off the board and slipped a pass to him, and Boyd fired a wicked wrister far side over Mason's shoulder to tie the game. This was Boyd's first goal as a Predator (okay- I know the goal in San Jose should have counted. It was his first OFFICIAL goal) and it came at a time when the Predators needed to cash in on their scoring chances.

Chris Mason is a good goalie, and when he plays the Predators he gets stronger and more confident the more saves he makes. Scoring on Mason showed there were chinks in his armor and that the Preds could score against him. Getting that tally was a psychological boost for the Predators.

This game was shaping up as another goaltender's duel involving Rinne and an opposing netminder. Each goalie turned away high quality scoring chances in the first two periods.

St. Louis would score early in the third to take a 2-1 lead as David Perron batted a shot out of mid-air with a backhand past Rinne. The score occurred at 3:29 of the period, and now the Predators were going to have to turn it on.

It would have been easy to wilt under the pressure the Blues brought. They were desperate. They needed this win. And they weren't backing off. This was time for the Predators to show their character and claw back into the game. Time to refuse to end the win streak.

For much of the period, the Blues did a great job turning back the Predators. Mason continued his strong play in the net and the Blues kept up the pressure with an aggressive forecheck. The clock was melting down and the Predators were the desperate team.

Desperate, but not despairing, as the Predators kept playing their game. Steve Sullivan controlled the puck just inside the face off circle and slid a puck toward the net just as he was flattened by a Blues defender. The puck slid to Patric Hornqvist in his "office" at the top of the crease, and in one motion he spun and whipped the puck past Mason. Tied at 2 with 16:29 off the clock.

The Predators controlled the ensuing face off and got the puck to Marty Erat. Erat drove in to the Blues zone and sped around the net. He found Dustin Boyd streaking in just inside the face off circle and fed him a pass. Boyd ripped a shot past Mason just as he was being leveled. Just :48 seconds since they tied the game, the Predators had improbably taken the lead.

The Predators were able to stave off a furious attempt to tie the game over the last 2:46, with the Blues with the extra attacker for the last 1:30. The Blues frustration at the loss boiled over at the end of the game as David Perron took a run and a cheap shot at Dustin Boyd at the glass after time had expired. A very manly move by Perron. Enjoy the long off season, pal.

It can be easy to say the Predators "won ugly", and this certainly was not the prettiest win that they have recorded. It is important to remember that every game we play between now and the end of the season is desperate hockey. Trying to survive hockey. Teams want what we have- a playoff spot. We are going to get their best shot every night. They are going to throw everything at us.

St Louis did just that tonight. They gave it their best shot. They wanted the win.. They NEEDED the win. We took their best shot and refused to buckle. We didn't fold when it was tough. We continued to fight, to scrap, to work for the victory. We would not be denied.

This is what it takes to secure a playoff spot. This is what it takes to break the will of our opponents. This kind of hockey is difficult to defeat. This is Predator hockey.

Bodies are sore, injuries are nagging, players are out of the lineup. Every team deals with this- you are no different in that regard. The difference that you possess is the belief in the guys that put on the sweater and the effort you will bring every night. This is the mark of a champion.

Time for some rest and to nurse some injuries. Time to get ready to do battle again.

It will be a battle.

Refuse to lose.

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