Sunday, February 27, 2011

Predators Break the Losing Streak against the BJ's

The Nashville Predators (finally!) snapped a four game losing streak, topping the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. The contest was a typical grinding affair against a team that has given the Predators fits this season. The Tire Barn has been a house of horrors for the BJ's, who lost their 16th straight game in Nashville.

The victory was not an easy one for the Predators, as the Blue Jackets trap nearly strangled the life out of the Predators. A sluggish and scoreless first period was not from lack of effort by either team, but neither the Predators nor the Jackets would yield any space in a tight checking period. Neither team could get their offense untracked against stubborn defensive pressure, with Columbus registering only six shots on goal while Nashville managed five.

It appeared as if Columbus notched the first goal on a goal mouth scramble early in the second period. The on ice officials immediately waved off the goal, but the play was reviewed by the replay booth and the War Room in Toronto. After the review, it was ruled that it was inconclusive as to whether or not the puck had crossed the goal line. Finally, the Predators had caught a break
Columbus would tally the first score of the contest at 14:17 and the Predators Shea Weber in the box for hooking. Matt Calvert converted with the man advantage as Grant Clitsome stimulated a rush into the offensive zone and slipped a pass to R. J. Umberger, who fired a shot on Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Rinne kicked out the shot with his right pad, but Calvert was driving the net and was able to slap the rebound past Rinne.

The Predators would tie the game at 1:47 of the third period as Shea Weber would record his 13th goal of the season on the power play. His blast beat Mathieu Garon to the stick side to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Nashville would take a 2-1 lead at 7:18 of the third period as Jonathan Blum found the back of the net for his first NHL goal. Blum launched a slap shot from the blue line that beat Garon through traffic, and the smile on Blum's face lit up the arena. The young blueliner has shown great promise since he has been called up and has filled in admirably on the back end.

Columbus would not go quietly, however. Nashville would go down a man at 10:50 as David Legwand was called for hooking. With just 16 seconds left on the power play, Kris Russell fired a slap shot that beat a screened Rinne to tie the game at 2.

Nashville managed to kill off a Shea Weber tripping penalty, and with Weber emerging from the box, he took a pass and fed it to Marty Erat. Erat fired a shot that Garon fought off but he left the rebound lying to the left of the net. David Legwand swooped in and lifted a backhand over a sprawling Garon for the game winner.

The Jackets style of play, trapping, holding, and clogging the neutral zone presented problems all night for the Predators. The Predators could have easily succumbed to the pressure and continued their downward spiral. Instead, they showed resiliency and mental toughness and battled all night against a tough opponent.

This is the kind of effort that will be required of this team in all their remaining games. It is playoff hockey, hockey that requires intensity and heart.

It will be a test throughout the remainder of the season.

It is time to show that you can pass that test.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. David Legwand

3. Jonathan Blum

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