Sunday, January 23, 2011

Predators Slide Past the Oilers in a SO 3-2

The Nashville Predators continued their lengthy road trip with a stop in frigid Edmonton, and for moments in the game, it looked as if the Predators had a brain freeze in their defensive zone. The Predators prevailed over the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout, but it was a game that shouldn't have been this close and yet was a game the Predators nearly threw away.

There is no doubt that the Oilers have some very fine young talent on their squad, and these young players at times show flashes of excellence. At the same time, the Predators made the likes of Taylor Hall and Linus Omark look very good.

The Predators opened the scoring at 11:53 of the first period as Alexander Sulzer was on the ice after spending two minutes of shame in the sin bin for holding. Cody Franson got an outlet pass to Sergei Kostitsyn, who drove hard to the net. Sulzer jumped in the play on the rush and was the beneficiary of a nice pass from Kostitsyn as he tipped a backhand past Edmonton netminder Devan Dubnyk. Congratulations on your first first NHL goal, Mr. Sulzer.

After a scoreless second period, the third period became more frenetic and the Predators once again demonstrated a frustrating inability to put away a team.

The Oilers tied the game at 2:03 of the third period as Liam Reddox made Cody Franson look like a pylon at the blue line. Franson got trapped in no man's land as he neither played the puck nor took the body and Reddox easily chipped the puck off the boards and past Franson. Shane O'Brien had Andrew Cogliano on the off side of the ice, but left his man to pick up Reddox. Reddox had an easy pass to make to Cogliano, who beat Pekka Rinne with the game tying goal.

Three players broke down on this play, and it cost the Predators. Franson was beat at the blue line; O'Brien overplayed the puck; and the forward coming back, Patric Hornqvist, was late getting in on the play. On unfortunate set of breakdowns and now we have a tie game and new life and energy for the Oil.

The Predators would regain the lead on the power play as Joel Ward was battling in front of the net and was able to tip in a shot from Alexander Sulzer at 14:05.

2-1 Predators and just under six minutes to go in the game. Lock this one down and skate away with the win.

Uh, what part of "lock this one down" did we not understand?

The Oilers would tie the game at 16:13 a Dustin Penner dug a puck off the boards and slipped it to Taylor Hall. Hall is dangerous, but when he breaks in on the goaltender alone, he is nearly unstoppable. That is what the Predators allowed- Hall breaking in on Rinne. Alone. Hall roofed a shot to the top corner to tie the game at 2.

The game remained scoreless for the the rest of regulation time, and the Predators and Oilers were heading to overtime.

Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was outstanding in this game, and I cannot fault him for the two goals allowed. Rinne made some outstanding saves to keep the Oil off the board. The two goals allowed in regulation were off of a 2 on 1 breakaway and a breakaway goal.

Rinne would make his most amazing save in the OT period, however. Amazing because he didn't touch the puck, yet managed to keep it out of his net. Let me tell you how we got there.

The Predators would have an abbreviated power play of 1:14 going into OT. The Predators could not capitalize on their man advantage, so they figured they would see if the Oilers could score with the man advantage.

Ryan Suter was called for tripping at 1:21 of OT, and the Oil did a good job of buzzing the Predators net and generating some scoring chances. In a scramble around the net, Rinne dropped his stick, but continues to battle and try to locate the puck. The Oilers put a shot on net that got past Rinne and appeared to be going in the net at the far side post.

Remember that dropped goalie stick? Guess where it was laying. On the ice, just inside the far side post. The puck hit the stick and deflected out. For the Oilers, the puck tantalizingly lay on the goal line before spinning harmlessly away. For Predator fans, there was a massive and collective sigh of relief.

No scoring in overtime and we were heading to the shootout, where Rinne has been dominant. Tonight was no different.

The Oil elected to shoot first , and phenom Linus Omark was the first shooter. Omark approached with speed, tried to deke Rinne, who said O-No-You-Don't-Mark, as he poked the puck away from the rookie. Marcel Goc was stopped by Dubnyk, and the teams were tied after one round.

Rinne stopped Edmonton's second shooter, Sam Gagne.

The second shooter for the Predators was an exciting forward....wait...what? A defenseman? Cody Franson?!

Sure enough, Cody Franson came over the boards to take the second shot for the Predators, and he buried a quick snap shot over the glove hand of Dubnyk. Franson looked incredibly poised in his first attempt at the shootout and also made the coaching staff look like geniuses for sending him out.

Rinne stopped Taylor Hall and the Predators had a hard fought victory. Frankly, harder than it should have been.

Focusing on the positives, the Predators continued to pile up the points, and these two points were important and were going to be difficult to capture. As stated earlier, this is an Oilers team that has good young talent, and they are going to be dangerous in a few years. This was a team that the Predators could have overlooked if they just looked at records. They almost did. Operative word: almost.

The Predators now stand at 27-15-6 and have 60 points. They are currently second in the Central Division, behind Detroit, who has 64 points. The Predators are in 4th place in the West, 2 points ahead of Anaheim.

The Predators have now captured 6 of the possible 8 points on this road trip. They play in Calgary tomorrow night.

Bring your "A" game boys and you want have to slide by the Flames

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Alexander Sulzer

3. Cody Franson


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