Let's face it- the New york Islanders have struggled this season. Their lineup has been wracked with injuries and is full of call ups from their minor league affiliate. They are a wounded team that was making a rare visit to Nashville for an inter-conference tilt against the Predators.
This was a game that had all the makings of an upset. A trap game.
In these types of games, it is important that the favored team come out with some jump and put the hammer down early and take the underdog out of the contest.
Looking at the final 5-0 score, one could surmise that the Predators did just that to the Islanders. The truth is that the Predators got through a flat first period with just a 1-0 lead, and without the stellar play of Anders Lindback in net, the outcome could have been disastrously different for the Predators.
The game opened with the Islanders displaying much more jump than the Predators. The Islanders cycled the puck well and controlled much of the play early in the contest. Indicative of the tempo was the fact that the Predators did not record their first shot on net until five minutes had elapsed in the first. Lindback was tested early and answered the challenge that the Islanders presented. His steady play kept the Isles off the board and the Predators in the game early.
Lindback has now recorded his second consecutive shutout, and is 4-0-1 since taking over for an injured Pekka Rinne. He ran his season record to 7-1-2 for the season. Tonight, he faced 28 shots in his shutout effort.
The Predators finally got a puck past Islanders netminder Dwayne Roloson at 11:15 of the first period. Cody Franson had the puck at the blue line and absolutely undressed Frans Neilson with a nifty move to keep possession of the puck. Franson walked the puck into the high slot and fired a shot that was tipped by Sergei Kostitsyn and past Roloson glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
This was the sixth straight game that Kostitsyn has recorded a point. It is good to see his game mature and that he is starting to show the potential that many thought he had. It is obvious that Kostitsyn is feeling more comfortable each game that he plays.
The Islanders are 0-15-2 in games where they have trailed 1-0, but the feel of this game after the first period was not necessarily a good one for Predator fans.
The mood of the home crowd would brighten considerably in the second period as Nashville would get their legs under them and step up the attack.
Patric Hornqvist would notch his 7th goal of the season at 5:22 of the second as he shoved home a rebound of a Shane O'Brien shot past a sprawling Roloson. The play, however, was made by O'Brien, as he controlled the puck and jumped over a sliding Isles defender, re-gathered the puck and unleashed his shot. A truly amazing play by O'Brien, showing the presence of mind to avoid the defender with a spectacular move and control the puck for a shot on net. Hornqvist was doing what he does best, lurking around the net, creating havoc, and poking home a rebound.
Nashville would add their third goal at 7:31 of the second as Jerred Smithson fought for the puck and controlled it as he drove into the Islanders zone. He flipped a wrister at Roloson that somehow slipped between his arm and the post. One might call it a soft goal given up by Roloson, but the play was made by Smithson who would not give up on the play and did the right thing by flipping the puck at the net.
Good things happen when you shoot the puck.
While the offense was starting to generate chances, Lindback was sharp in net, stopping Rob Schremp on several occasions and making some big saves. Lindback did give up some rebounds, but when he did, the defense was there to clean up the front of the net and not allow second chance scoring opportunities.
Patric Hornqvist would tally his second goal and make it 4-0 Predators at 13:55 of the third period. He drove down the right side and fired a shot that Roloson stopped with his pad. The rebound caromed behind the net, and Hornqvist continued his drive to the net, gathering in the puck and beating Roloson with the wraparound. Rollie was late sliding to the far post and gave Hornqvist the opening, and he made no mistake in burying the shot.
Matt Moulson took a high sticking penalty at 17:09. He was shortly thereafter followed to the box by James Wisniewski at 17:49 on another high sticking call. With the 5 on 3 power play, Nick Spaling found himself alone at the side of the net and he nailed a shot into the open net for his first NHL goal and the final score for the Predators.
5-0, and the fears of a trap game were dispelled.
The Predators started slowly, but as the game went on, exerted their will against the Islanders. Again, one should realize that the Islanders are a wounded team contending with numerous injuries.
The San Jose Sharks come to town on Wednesday, and as Head Coach Barry Trotz said in his post game remarks, the Predators will have to find another gear for that game.
Start slowly, and I will guarantee you the outcome will be markedly different.
Late in the game, Sergei Kostitysn was hit with a Shea Weber slapshot and injured his foot. The extent of the injury is not known, but according to Coach Trotz, it does not appear to be serious.
This means that Kostitsyn will miss at least a month. (Just kidding. I hope).
The Predators showed some maturity and mental toughness tonight. This was a game they should have won. A game where they should have come out and taken care of business and snuffed out any emotion and opportunity that the Islanders might have had.
It was good to see them efficiently take care of business.
Now it will be time to find another gear.
My three stars:
1. Patric Hornqvist
2. Anders Lindback
3. Sergei Kostitsyn