Thursday, October 21, 2010

Penguins Pilfer Points From the Predators in a 4-3 OT win

The Nashville Predators dropped their third consecutive overtime game to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-3 as Kris Letang scored at 3:49 of the extra period to allow the Pens to sneak away with a win.

Nashville fielded a mix and match lineup as Ryan Suter, Matthew Lombardi, and Marcel Goc were out due to injury. Nevertheless, the Predators took the attack to the Penguins early on in the contest.

David Legwand put the Predators on the board just 53 seconds into the contest as he took a nice pass from Jordin Tootoo and beat Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury glove side to stake the Predators to a 1-0 lead. This goal was due to the effort by Tootoo, as his aggressive forecheck forced the Penguins defense to turn the puck over. Legwand was the beneficiary of Tootoo's effort as Fleury had no chance to stop Legwand, who was parked at the side of the net and buried his shot.

The Predators took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but not without a bit of luck. Pittsburgh slipped the puck into the net with a five hole shot against Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. Fortunately, the clock had run out and after a brief review, it was ruled no goal.

The Pens would get the tying tally at 19:06 of the second period as Evgeni Malkin would score off assists from Mike Comrie and Kris Letang.

Nashville would once again take the lead 2-1 on the power play as Cody Franson rifled a shot from the blue line that went top corner past a screened Fleury.

That lead would last approximately five minutes before Sidney Crosby scored a goal that Pekka Rinne would like to have back. With Crosby driving the net from the right faceoff circle, Rinne inexplicably pulled off the post and gave Crosby the tiniest of openings. Crosby exploited Rinne's mistake and scored a goal scorer's goal inside the near post to tie the game.

The Predators would once again regain the lead at 5:03 of the third period as Patric Hornqvist took a nice pass from Colin Wilson and beat Rinne top corner to the glove side.

That lead would stand until 12:56 of the third, when Sidney Crosby scored his second goal into a virtually open net. Malkin drove the net and fired a shot that Rinne stopped with his pads. The rebound kicked out to Crosby, who was alone at the side of the net and he buried the shot.

The game would remain scoreless for the remainder of the third period, thanks to the play of Rinne, who stopped a number of quality scoring chances. The Predators were on their heels for much of the third period and were outshot 17-5 in that period.

The Predators nearly won the game in overtime as a shot from J.P. Dumont hit the crossbar and then the back of Fleury. It fell tantalizingly close to the goal line, but would not go slide over.

The Letang game winner dropped the Predators to 3-0-3 on the season. The positives that can be taken from this is that the Predators have played some very good teams with a depleted lineup and have come away with points.

The negative aspect of these losses is simply this: the Predators have been outplayed late in these contests. For the Predators to have success, they are going to have to tighten up their game in the late stages. They have to maintain their offensive aggressiveness and capitalize on scoring chances. Sitting back on their heels is not they way this team has to play to have an opportunity to win games.

A brief word about the officiating. I feel that calls usually even themselves out during the course of the game. Tonight, the officials were cowardly in not calling Malkin for leaving his feet and boarding Jordin Tootoo. This was a dangerous play that was somehow, in the view of referees Gord Dwyer and Mike Leggo, was not a penalty. If the League is serious about protecting players, those are the calls that have to be made. This call did not decide the game, but was an egregious example of the inconsistency of the officiating in games this season.

It is imperative that the Predators continue to improve their play. This is a long season and it will be a war. Getting dominated late in the game like the Predators did tonight will come back to haunt this team. I am grateful for the points and playing some of the best teams to overtime without some key players.

This team will, however, have to develop a killer instinct. Protecting the late game leads is a matter of will and desire. It is a matter of maintaining aggressiveness. It is doing the things that got you a lead when you have that lead.

No doubt there are positives from this stretch. There are things that should be learned. The future of this team will be decided by learning these lessons and applying them in the contests to come.

My three stars of the game:

1. Sidney Crosby

2. Kris Letang

3. Jordin Tootoo

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