Sunday, January 16, 2011

Third Period Meltdown Dooms the Predators in a 6-3 Loss to the Blackhawks

As good as the Nashville Predator's win over  the Blackhawks was on Saturday, their re-match in Chicago was horrid. A third period meltdown cost the Predators a chance to sweep the back to back contests with their division rivals, as the Blackhawks turned a close game into a blowout, defeating the Predators 6-3.

The Predators were victimized by a third period that was a horror show. Tied at 2 at the end of two periods, the Predators took a 3-2 lead on the second goal of the night from J.P. Dumont. From that point on, the wheels absolutely came off for the Predators.

Before we get to the debacle that was the third period for the Predators, let's see how we got there.

The Predators opened the game with good jump and were out-skating the Hawks in the first period. Their effort paid off with four power play opportunities in the first period, and they were able to cash in on two of them.

The first tally of the game came from Marty Erat with Jonathan Toews in the box for holding.Erat buried a rebound past Hawks goalie Marty Turco to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:04 of the period.

Chicago would tie the game on a Dave Bolland score at 6:38, as he beat Nashville netminder Anders Lindback.

The Predators would respond with their second power play marker of the period as J.P. Dumont corralled a rebound of a Shea Weber shot that was initially blocked by Brian Campbell. He beat Turco with a quick wrist shot to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage.

Chicago would tie the game with the only goal of the second period as David Legwand made a lazy croos ice pass at the Predators blueline that Bolland intercepted. Bolland put a spectacular move on Ryan Suter, the only Predator player that was back to stop the rush, and beat Lindback five hole.

To this point, the contest had been fairly even, Nashville had outshot the hawks at the end of two period by an 18-16 margin and had skated evenly with the Hawks through forty minutes.

As I said last night, it is a 60 minute game, but tonight the Predators unfortunately checked out after 40 minutes.

Oh, the third started well. J.P. Dumont potted his second goal of the night off a clean face off win by rookie Chris Mueller. Dumont gathered in the puck and beat Turco cleanly with a quick wrister that went high glove side.

3-2 Predators and we have a game that the good guys can win.

Not so fast.

A game that the Predators had played evenly with the Blackhawks suddenly spiraled out of control. Quickly.

With Ryan Suter in the box for holding, the Blackhawks struck on a power play opportunity of their own.Troy Brouwer was left all alone in front of the net and gathered in a rebound of a pad save by Lindback and knocked the puck into an open net as Lindback was out of position. Brouwer's goal came at 9:19 of the third

Tied at 3, the Hawks turned up the pressure and the Predators did not respond. Brouwer circled out the corner, split Marcel Goc and Shea Weber, and found himself alone in the low slot. His wrist shot beat Lindback to the glove side at 9:59 of the third.

Two goals in 40 seconds and the Hawks were flying and the Predators were back on their heels. And the assault was just beginning.

Brian Bickell scored at 14:08 and Jonathan Toews added the finisher at 16:58.

From up 3-2 with 11 minutes to go in the contest to down 6-3 at the end. Indicative of how bad the third period was for the Predators, they were outshot 18-5.

Absolutely putrid.

Compounding the sting of this loss was the fact that the Predators lost Francis Buillon in the first period as he was boarded by Brouwer. The Predators spent the rest of the contest with just five defensemen.No excuses, but you have to believe that fatigue was a factor late in the game for the D corp. Ryan Suter logged 32:43 of ice time; Shea Weber had 29:40; and Kevin Klein had 21:43.

With this loss, the Predators are now tied with the Blackhawks with 54 points, but have 2 games in hand.  The Predators lead the season series with the Blackhawks 3-2.

This is another example of how this team has to play a full 60 minutes to win a game. This was a game the Predators could have won, but their 11 minute lapse in the third period bite them hard.

There will be no rest for the weary, as the Predators are now headed to Phoenix to play the red hot Coyotes.

The importance of that upcoming game? The Coyotes sit in fourth place in the West, one point ahead of the Predators.

All the games in this tightly bunched Western Conference race are important. They are yours for the taking, boys. However, ya gotta play a full 60 minutes.

And avoid those pesky meltdowns.

My three stars:

1. Dave Bolland

2. Troy Brouwer

3. J.P. Dumont


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