Thursday, March 31, 2011

Predators Survive the Avs 3-2

The Nashville Predators defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a game that best be described as the Predators surviving the Avalanche.The Predators managed to take a game that was well in hand and, to say the least, make it interesting.

Playing the Avalanche was a dangerous proposition for the Predators. The Avs are out of the playoffs and are playing loose and wide open hockey. It was going to be imperative that the Predators play sound hockey, disciplined hockey to not fall victim to the Avalanche.

It would be the Predators that would play their game early on in the contest.

The Predators opened the scoring at 15:35 of the first period as Matt Halischuk dug the puck out of the corner and got the puck to Colin Wilson. Wilson beat Brian Elliott for his 16th goal of the season to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

A give and take first period saw Pekka Rinne make some big saves and the Predators generate some chances. For all the effort, though, the Predators held a slim 1-0 lead.

The second period was more of the same, with both Rinne and Elliott coming up with some big saves to keep the margin at 1.

That would change at 10:20 of the second period as Cody Franson would release a quick wrist shot from the blue line that was tipped by Jordin Tootoo past Elliott for his 6th goal of the season and a 2-0 Predators lead.

The first 40 minutes of the contest were dominated by the Predators as they out shot the Avs by a 30-14 margin. The forecheck was aggressive and the defensive effort was solid. The only negative of the first 40 minutes was the loss of Jordin Tootoo late in the period to an upper body injury.

As hard as it is to believe and as late in the season as it is, the Predators still have not seemed to grasp the fact that it is a 60 minute game. The third period was, shall we say, chaotic. It also saw the Avs score 2 goals to make the score way more interesting than it should have been.

Before the chaos erupted, the Predators extended their lead to 3-0 on the power play as Marty Erat stole the puck and broke in alone on Elliott. Elliot tried to poke check the puck away, but Erat deftly pulled the puck back and roofed a shot over Elliott.

A comfortable 3-0 lead with just over 12 minutes to go. Game in hand, wouldn't you think?

Not so fast.

The Avs out shot the Predators 15-4 in the third period. More about that in a moment. With the offensive zone time for the Avs, you just knew something was going to happen.

It did.

Paul Statsny beat Joel Ward in defensive coverage in front of the net and flipped the puck over Rinne to make it 3-1 Predators at 13:35. That goal seemed to really energize the Avalanche as they dominated in the offensive zone.

David Jones would somehow leak a puck between Rinne and the post at 18:58 of the third with the extra attacker on the ice. Now the Predators were just trying to hang on for the final 1:02.

They did hang on, but not for lack of effort by the Avalanche, who won an offensive zone face off with 3.5 seconds remaining and fired a shot on Rinne that required a good save at the horn.

Yes, the Predators won the game, but in reality, they survived the Avalanche.

Back to that third period.

What is difficult for me to grasp is the mentality of this team with a lead. The Predators had played a very solid 40 minutes of hockey and had a lead. They extended the lead 7 minutes into the third. And then they just sat back and let the Avalanche dominate the play. There is no doubt that this team has one of the elite goalies in the NHL in Pekka Rinne, but the tendency to rely- too heavily- on Rinne late in a game has bitten this team in the ass more than once this season, and it almost did again tonight. Foe the life of me, I don't understand the tendency to take the foot off the gas and let the opponent dictate play late in a game.

Play like this in the playoffs and you will see another first round exit.

This team needs to develop a killer instinct. Stop letting other teams claw back into the game by being passive. Playing a prevent defense does not work in football and the Predators are proving that it doesn't work in hockey.

Make no mistake- this is a win and two precious points. But this is a win that should teach you a lesson that hopefully you don't have to learn again.

Don't let up.

My three stars:

1. Marty Erat

2. Colin Wilson

3. Pekka Rinne

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