Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Predators Fail to Snuff the Flames, Fall in a Shoot Out 3-2

7:00

60 minutes.

Kill or be killed.

These were the themes of a Predators shootout loss to the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-2 at the Bridgestone Arena. Let's expand expand those themes, shall we?

Although the Predators outshot the Calgary Flames 11-8 in the first period, it appeared early on as if the Predators didn't realize that the game started at 7:00. Calgary came out with much more jump and at the 8:00 minute mark of the first period had outshot the Predators 6-1. Without the solid play of Pekka Rinne, who made some great saves early in the contest, Calgary would have run the Predators out of the barn.

Fortunately, it is a 20 minute period, and the Predators finally woke up. The Predators would tally the game's first goal on their second shot of the game, as Martin Erat took a nice pass from Sergei Kostitsyn, fought off a defender, and slipped a backhand shot between Mikka Kiprusoff and the post to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 7:43 of the first period.

That goal energized the Predators, and they outshot the Flames 9-2 over the remainder of the period. The Predators generated some quality chances, but could not put another puck past Kiprusoff, who was called upon to make some good saves.

60 minutes. The second period was scoreless, with each team putting 6 shots on goal. However, the Flames controlled the puck for much of the second period, and the Predators offense generated zilch in terms of good scoring chances. For much of the second period, it appeared as if the Predators considered it a win if they successfully cleared the defensive zone.

Compounding the problem for the Predators was the fact that they took inopportune penalties, especially penalties that were taken by their top penalty killers. Nick Spaling was tagged with three of the Predators five penalties during the game; Jerred Smithson took one, as did Ryan Suter. Fortunately for the Predators, their stellar penalty kill continued their torrid pace as they killed all of the Calgary man advantage chances.

Kill or be killed. The Predators entered the third period with a 1-0 advantage, and promptly gave up that lead at the 2:57 mark of the third period as Matt Stajan scored on a goal that Pekka Rinne would like to have back. Stajan took an unscreened shot that Rinne let slip between his arm and his body for the tying score. As solid as Rinne was- even spectacular at times with some of his saves- this was a horribly soft goal that seemed to energize the Flames.

Nashville seized the momentum back at 5:24 of the third period when Patric Hornqvist notched his 16th goal of the season on the power play. Hornqvist buried the rebound of a Shea Weber shot while working hard in front of the net, and once again, the Predators had the lead and the chance to put a way the Flames.

Once again, the Predators painfully showed a lack of killer instinct. Rather than snuff the Flames, they let Cory Sarich walk into the slot unmolested and he rifled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne for the tying score at 9:04 of the third.

The Predators had a few other scoring chances but could not get the puck into the net as Kiprusoff made some good saves. The fact is that the offense did not create enough scoring chances and Calgary was able to hold the Predators off the board for the remainder of the period.

The Predators did a good job of limiting Calgary for the remainder of the third period, and we were heading to overtime.

Kill or be killed.

When you have the lead late in a game, you have to put the other team away. The Predators have inexplicably shown an inability to do so recently, as they have given up 8 third period goals in their last five games.

A scoreless overtime period was the result of some good saves by Rinne, as the Predators offense managed only 1 shot on goal and never challenged Kiprsusoff.

Kill or be killed.

Whether playing too cautiously or playing for a point, the fact remains that the Predators had turned from hunters to hunted.

In the shootout, Rene Bourque scored as the first shooter for the Flames. Rinne stopped Alex Tanguay and Ollie Jokinen. Nashville countered with Martin Erat, Cody Franson, and David Legwand. All shot blanks, and Calgary skated away with their third win over the Predators this season.

This is a frustrating loss for the Predators, because they played well in spurts, but did not play a complete game. They picked up a point, but frankly should have had 2.

These are the kind of games that can turn a season. Learn the lessons of this contest: start strong; play a full 60 minutes; and put teams away when you have the opportunity.

Fail to learn these lessons and the results in upcoming contests will be just as painful as tonight's game.

My three stars:

1. Mikka Kiprusoff

2. Matt Stajan

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

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