Sometimes a team wins a game when they are short on talent but long on heart and grit. That was the case tonight in the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators defeated the Boston Bruins in overtime 4-3. For the Predators, this was their first overtime win of the season, and it was two critical points for the Predators, who are fighting for a playoff spot.
With the win, the Predators record is 36-25-10, good for 82 points and currently 9th in the Western Conference, one point out of the 8th position.
The game was billed as a matchup between the two best goalies in the NHL in Boston's Tim Thomas and Nashville's Pekka Rinne. However, Boston chose to go with backup Tuukka Rask against the Predators.
The game did not start well for the Predators, as Boston scored on their first shot of the game. Tyler Seguin beat Rinne high glove side just 1:50 into the game to stake the Bruins to a 1-0 lead.
Sergei Kostitsyn would break his personal scoring drought at 7:53 of the first with a wrist shot from inside the face off circle that would beat Rask for his 17th goal of the season. Good to see Kostitsyn find the net again, as the Predators are going to need contributions from the speedy forward.
Tyler Seguin would factor into another big play in the first period, as Patric Hornqvist was called for elbowing Seguin at at 17:30 of the first period. Although it appeared that Hornqvist made contact with Seguin's shoulder first, Seguin was injured (he received 7 stitches to his ear), and as a result, Hornqvist received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit.
The Predators had to kill the major over the remainder of the first period and the start of the second, and they were fortunate that the penalty was spread over the two periods as it gave the penalty killers time to recover during the intermission. The Predators were successful in killing the major penalty and their effort not only energized the crowd but the team as well.
Pekka Rinne made an outstanding save on Michael Ryder, who came out of the box after serving a penalty for interference and broke in behind the defense. Rinne stoned Ryder with a fantastic glove save to keep the Bruins off the board.
The Predators built on the momentum of the save and the energy of the crowd and Colin Wilson capitalized at 10:39 of the second period with a wicked wrister that beat Rask to his blocker side. Wilson squeezed the shot in between Rask's blocker and the post for his 15th goal of the season. Once again, a player that had endured a personal goal scoring drought had broken through with a tally. For the Predators to have success in their remaining games, they are going to have to have contributions from all the forwards, and Wilson is one of those that will be counted on to find the net.
David Krejci would tie the game at 13:33 as he fired a rebound of a Nathan Horton shot into an open net. Rinne made the initial save on the Horton shot, but kicked the rebound out and Krejci beat Shea Weber to the rebound and fired it past an out of position Rinne.
Tied at 2 going into the third period, it was obvious that the out manned Predators could play with the talented Bruins. The question was would they be able to reach down and capture a win they desperately needed?
The Bruins recaptured the lead at 1:50 of the third period as Patrice Bergeron notched his 22nd goal of the season as he beat Rinne to the glove side.
The hole was there. How would the Predators respond?
Martin Erat was called for high sticking at 8:46 of the third, and once again the stellar penalty kill of the Predators went to work, and once again, they held the Bruins off the board. Erat came out of the box, and much like Michael Ryder did in the second period, took a stretch pass behind the defense and broke in on Rask. Rask made the initial save and a save on a follow up by Sergei Kostitsyn. David Legwand was also following the play, and with Rask out of position after the second save, buried the third attempt for the game tying goal at 10:56.
Neither team was able to find the net for the remainder of the third period, and it was off to overtime, a period that had not been kind to the Predators this season.
In the extra period, Steven Kampfer was called for tackling Mike Fisher, who was hustling on the cycle in the Bruins zone. The Predators would have the man advantage for the remainder of the overtime period.
The Predators would make the Bruins pay for their transgression at 3:37 of overtime. Ryan Suter slid the puck to Shea Weber, who was creeping in from the blueline. Weber unleashed his cannon shot from 10 feet inside the blueline, and Rask never saw the rocket until it was in the back of the net.
With the home crowd in a frenzy, the Predators celebrated their first overtime victory of the season, a win that came against the team with the best road record in the NHL. More importantly, they captured a precious two points that they had to have to stay in the playoff race.
This would have been an easy game to tank for the Predators. Injuries have ravaged the line up and you lose a forward to a game misconduct in the first period. The talent level of the Bruins was better and they had a healthy squad. They one thing you cannot quantify, however, is heart.
And tonight, the heart of the Predators was bigger.
This is the kind of game the Predators are going to have to play the rest of the season- gritty hockey, hockey that is not fancy but hard working hockey. Hockey with heart.
Play with the heart that you displayed tonight and you will be rewarded.
My three stars:
1. Shea Weber
2. Colin Wilson
3. Tyler Seguin