Two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference decided that 65 minutes of hockey wasn't enough to settle the contest at the Bridgestone Arena as Nashville and Detroit went skate to skate in an important tilt for playoff standings. The shootout appeared for a time as if it was going to cycle through every shooter on the bench before the Red Wings won in the 11th round.
This was a game that took on the aspect of two heavy weight fighters slugging it out. Both teams had opportunities to score. Both teams played solid defense. Both teams got stellar goaltending. And neither would yield in regulation or in overtime.
The Predators came into the contest with a 10-4 record since the Olympic break. Detroit came in 11-2-1. This was a game that each team wanted, and neither would give an inch in the quest for a victory.
The Predators had opportunities in the first period as they came out flying and generated some chances. The negative aspect of the Predators game tonight was that they couldn't finish chances. Credit goes to Wing netminder Jimmy Howard for being solid in net. It is going to be incumbent on the Predators in the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs to bury the chances they get. Tonight, that didn't happen.
The Predators did an exceptional job of controlling play in the neutral zone and preventing the Wings from entering the zone with speed. The Wings have an explosive offense and generate scoring opportunities when they enter the zone with speed. Tonight, the Predators did a great job of slowing the rush down and refused to allow the Wings to use their speed and explosiveness to enter the zone.
The Predators did a great job of clearing the front of the net as well. The Wings are very good at generating scoring chances off rebounds. Tonight, there were very few second scoring chances as the defense was solid in front of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.
The Predators outshot the Wings 13-11 in the first period. In the second period, Detroit stepped up the pressure and cycled the puck very well. As a result, they outshot the Predators 15-7, and Rinne was called upon to make some spectacular saves.He also got an assist from Kevin Klein, who swept a puck that had gotten behind Rinne off the goal line.
In the third period, both teams traded chances, and it felt that the team that made the first mistake would wind up on the losing end of the score. Neither team made that critical mistake, and the period ended scoreless. Nashville outshot Detroit 12-11 in the third, with each netminder continuing their solid play.
In the overtime period, each team only recorded one shot on goal and didn't generate much in the way of offense.For 65 minutes, the Predator defense had held the explosive Wings offense in check. In turn, the Wings defense thwarted the Nashville scoring committee.
In the shootout, both goaltenders were solid. Todd Bertuzzi finally broke through for the Wings in the 5th round with a nice backhand move that beat Rinne. Needing to score, the Predators sent out Steve Sullivan, and he practically undressed Howard to tie the game.
Both goaltenders stopped the next five shooters with sound positioning and patience in net.
In the 11th round, charging Niklas Kronwall slipped a shot five hole that beat Rinne for the game winner. The Nashville shooter, Francis Bouillon, was stopped by Howard, and the Wings had the second point and the win.
As disappointing as the loss was for the Predators, the take away from this game is that they played a solid game against one of the best teams in the West. The defense was very good and the goaltending by Rinne was exceptional.The offense has to bury the chances they get for this team to go far in the playoffs. Some nights, it just doesn't happen.
After playing solid games against Phoenix and Detroit, the Predators should have a measure of confidence in their play. They will need it in the push to the playoffs and in the playoffs themselves. The steady play has to continue.
The season is drawing to a close, but there are important games to play. Consistency in effort will be key for the Predators.
Play like you have lately, and the victories will continue to come your way.