Saturday, February 12, 2011

Predators Win Ugly, Defeat the Avalanche 5-3

Sometimes when a team notches a win, it is a thing of beauty; sometimes it is ugly. Tonight, the Nashville Predators won ugly over the Colorado Avalanche by a 5-3 margin. Fortunately, they don't give style points for a victory as this was not the prettiest win for the Predators.

The Predators came out flying and took the play to the Avalanche. The Predators tilted the ice in their favor in the first period, outshooting the Avalanche 10-4. It was the Avalanche that drew first blood, however, as the Predators gave up a goal at 11:05 as Kevin Porter beat Jerred Smithson in the low slot and poked a puck past Pekka Rinne to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

At this point, the game had the feel of the debacle against Edmonton, as in both games, the Predators dominated on the shot count and controlled the play only to find themselves in a 1-0 hole. The Avs netminder, Peter Budaj, had stood on his head up to this point and had managed to keep the Predators off the board.

Unlike the Edmonton game, the Predators would answer the Colorado tally, and they would do so just 11 seconds after the Avs found the net. Shea Weber would fire a wrist shot that would beat Budaj to tie the game at 11:16 for his 11th goal of the season. On the play, newly acquired Mike Fisher was screening Budaj at the top of the paint and because of his work, Budaj never saw the puck until it was in the net.

The trend of outshooting the Avs would continue in the second period for the Predators as the Predators would dominate the shot total by an 18-5 margin. One knew that with this many shots on net, Budaj would eventually break and give up a score.

The Predators got that break at 4:36 of the second period as Martin Erat would tally on the power play. Erat took a shot from close in that squeezed through the pads of Budaj and was lying in the blue paint just behind the Avs goalie. Erat continued to fish for the puck and was able to get his stick on it and drive it into the net for a 2-1 Predators lead.

Colorado would tie the game on another defensive breakdown by the Predators. David Jones would get the puck and walk out of the corner unmolested as both Cody Franson and Shane O'Brien broke the defensive coverage. Jones would have an unmolested shot that beat Rinne under his outstretched pad to tie the game at 9:13.

Colorado would take the lead at 2:54 of the third period on Matt Duchene's 21st goal of the season. Duchene ripped a slap shot from the face off circle that beat an unscreened Rinne to the stick side. This was definitely a goal that Rinne would like to have back.

I have often questioned the mental toughness of the Predators- their ability to bounce back in the course of a game when faced with adversity. Tonight, the Predators answered the question about their mental toughness.

The Predators would get the tying goal at 4:11 of the third as David Legwand controlled a puck behind the Avalanche goal. Legwand found Patric Hornqvist, who had worked back into the low slot to give himself some space. Legwand looked off the defense and found Hornqvist with a nice pass. Hornqvist ripped a ont timer that beat Budaj glove side to tie the game at 3.

The game went back and forth as both teams generated some chances. The Predators would break through at 17:30 of the third when Cody Franson snapped a quick shot from almost straight away at the blue line in front of Budaj. The puck squirted through the pads of the Avs netminder to give the Predators a 4-3 lead.

The Predators would ice the game at 19:14 as David Legwand took a pass from Mike Fisher and hit an empty net goal to make the final margin 5-3. With the assist, Fisher recorded his first point as a Predator.

The Predators outshot the Avs 39-18, and their offensive zone presence was strong. As the game went on, you had to believe that with this kind of effort, the Predators were going to break through and find the net. Budaj made some great saves, but the Predators were relentless on the attack. This kind of effort will usually lead to wins.

With the win, the Predators now are 30-19-7, good for 67 points and they currently sit at 4th in the Western Conference.

The Predators killed off both Colorado penalties, and now have allowed only one goal in the last 23 shorthanded chances. This is the kind of play that will lead to victories- gritty, detailed, and with maximum effort.

The Western Conference remains a dog fight. Some nights, you have to win ugly and get the points. That is what the Predators did tonight. They fought back and refused to relent to a desperate team.

The upcoming week brings three tough opponents to the Bridgestone Arena. It doesn't matter how pretty the wins might be.

Just get them and the all important points.

My three stars:

1. Martin Erat

2. David Legwand

3. Cody Franson

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