Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Predators/Wings Redux: Wings Whipped (Again) 4-1

The Nashville Predators washed away the stench of a debacle in their previous game against Edmonton with a decisive 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena. The victory over the Red Wings moves the season series to 3-1 for the Predators.

The Predators lost their last game from the neck up. Simply put, the Predators didn't have the mental toughness to respond to the challenge of the Oilers. It was going to be interesting to see if the Predators had the mental toughness to respond to the challenge the Wings would present and overcome the onus of winning games at the Joe.

They did.

Marty Erat opened the scoring for the Predators at 3:09 of the first period. Marcel Goc drove the net and made a backhand pass to Erat, who was driving the wing. Erat uncorked a high shot that went over the shoulder of Detroit's Jimmy Howard and just under the crossbar. The play was set up by the strong drive to the net by Goc, and Erat made no mistake in burying the shot for his 8th goal of the season.

The Predators would make it 2-0 at 14:13 of the first period as Ryan Suter let a shot go that Howard kicked out with his left pad. The rebound came over to David Legwand and he put the rebound into an open net.

The Predators did not succumb to their unhealthy characteristic of sitting back with a lead as the opened the second period with good pressure. Joel Ward dug a puck out from behind the net and got a pass to Jerred Smithson. Smithson spotted Colin Wilson driving the net and fired a pass to him. His first shot was blocked by the pad of Howard, but Wilson followed his rebound and potted the puck into the net for his 13th goal of the season and a 3-0 Predators lead.

The Predators continued to pressure the Wings throughout the period, skating well and slowing the Wings potent attack through the neutral zone. The forecheck did a great job of disrupting the Wings breakout and kept them bottled up in their zone throughout the game. This type of play was missing against the Oilers in their previous game, and tonight was the difference in securing this big win for the Predators.

That effort would lead to the Predators second goal of the period and fourth of the game. This goal would come on the power play as Shea Weber unleashed a blast from the point that Howard could not control. Sergei Kostitsyn beat Niklas Lidstrom to the puck and had an open net into which to shoot the puck.

4-0 Predators. Take a seat, Mr. Howard. Thanks for coming.

Hello Joey MacDonald.

Ruslan Salei would break the shutout that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne had pitched to that point with a tap in rebound goal at 16:02 of the second period. This was the only blemish on an otherwise spectacular night by Rinne, who stopped 34 of 35 Detroit shots.

The Predators pressured the Detroit net throughout the third period, but could not get a puck past MacDonald, who made some very good saves. Although the Predators could not find the back of the net in the third period, neither could the Wings, who were stymied by Rinne and the Predators defensive effort.

With no scoring in the third period, the Predators made the three goal lead stand up over the final 20 minutes with solid defense and continued offensive pressure in the Detroit zone. This is Predator hockey.

It is winning hockey.

The Predators are tied for 4th in the Western Conference with Dallas, who is playing at the time of this post. Each team has 65 points. With this win, the Predators are 29-19-7.

The Predators lost Marcel Goc near the end of the first period with an upper body injury. The extent of the injury is unknown. It was thought that Goc might return later in the game, but he never returned to the bench.

The contrast between the game Monday against the Oilers and tonight's game against the Wings is stark. When this team plays with confidence, when they skate, when the defense is sound, they are very tough. When their heads are not in the game, they can absolutely stink.

Admit it guys, it is a lot more fun when you play like this rather than how you played on Monday.

There are lots of games- tough games- to be played.

What do you say we have some fun?

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. David Legwand

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

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