Saturday, April 17, 2010

800 Pound Gorilla Off Their Backs, Preds Get First Road Playoff Win 4-1

The Nashville Predators opened the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Chicago with a 4-1 win over the heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks.With this win, the Predators have notched their first road win in five years in the playoffs and have stolen home ice from the Blackhawks in this first round matchup.

After a scoreless first period, Patrick "20 Cent" Kane got the Hawks on the board in the second period with a garbage goal. Pekka Rinne made the save on a shot by Patrick Sharp, but Rinne couldn't control the rebound, which was sitting in the blue ice of the crease. 20 Cent knocked home the rebound to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead and send the United Center crowd into delirium.

The Predators evened the score in the third period with a garbage goal of their own. J. P. Dumont flipped a backhand toward the net that took a funny bounce and beat Antti Niemi to to tie the game. A garbage goal, but unlike the Chicago goal, the Nashville goal seemed to shake the Hawks.

Dumont would record his second tally off a shot by David Legwand, He fought for control of the puck on the rebound, gained control, and fired it high over a sprawling Niemi to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 10:37 of the third period.

Jerred Smithson would add an empty netter at 19:12 of the third. Marty Erat would finish the scoring with another empty net goal at 19:46 of the third, and the Predators would finally get the 800 pound gorilla off their back as they recorded their first road win in the history of this franchise.

The Predators played a great road game, clogging the neutral zone and refusing to let Chicago enter the offensive zone with speed. This forced the Hawks to set up in the offensive zone, and when they did, the Predators defense was solid. limiting chances in front of Rinne.

Everyone knew that Chicago would bring a strong offensive effort, and tonight the Predators played a sound defensive game. They frustrated the offense of the Hawks and gave them very few quality chances.

When the Blackhawks did get a scoring chance, Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net. He made several quality saves, and for the night stopped 25 of 26 shots.

Kudos to the Predators for playing a composed, patient game. They stymied the potent Hawks offense all night. They weathered the push that everyone knew would come from Chicago. They showed maturity and poise in a hostile environment.

Chicago outshot Nashville 10-7 in the first and 12-6 in the second. One would think the tend would continue in the third, but the Predators outshot the Hawks 13-4. Turning up the pressure offensively was critical for the Predators, and it paid off with four goals.

More importantly, the Predators shut down the Hawks in the third period, limiting them to four shots in the  period. This shows the heart and composure of this squad. In a hostile arena with a quality opponent, it would have been easy to crumble under the pressure. Instead, the Predators exerted their will and changed the outcome of this game.

Tonight, heart and character was on display, and it was shown by the Predators.

This is just one game in what will be a tough series for the Predators. No one thinks the Predators can or will win four straight games. This game shows, however, that the Predators can compete with the talented Blackhawks. This game shows that the Predators have the heart and the skill to win this series. This game shows the Predators what they have to do to win the series.

Now the Predators have the gorilla off their back. The 800 pound primate is gone. Now the Predators know they can win on the road. Now the Predators know they can compete.

It's now time to put the second road win in the books.

It's now time to start to make history and win a playoff series.

You have made the big first step, boys.

Time to take the second one on Sunday.

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