Monday, October 31, 2011

Predators Fall to the Blackhawks in OT 5-4

The Nashville Predators journeyed to the United Center for a Halloween night tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks, and in a game befitting the night of tricks and treats, it was a wild affair as both Pekka Rinne and Corey Crawford will have nightmares about this contest. Crawford will probably sleep a bit better than Rinne as the Hawks outlasted the Predators in overtime 5-4.

For the second game in a row, Patric Hornqvist wasted no time getting the Predators on the board. Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford misplayed the puck behind his net, failing to stop the puck. David Legwand picked up the puck and found Hornqvist driving the net for an empty net tap in just 26 seconds into the contest. For Hornqvist, this was his third goal of the season, and as he has started to return to 100% health, his game has started to heat up.

The Predators gave the Hawks three power plays in the first period, and against an explosive offensive like Chicago has, this is tempting fate. Fortunately for the Predators, they were able to kill off all three penalties.

The Predators did a good job of limiting Chicago's speed through the neutral zone in the first period, and once Chicago gained the zone, were hard on the puck, limiting the scoring chances. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, making his 11th straight start, was solid in net, turning away the Hawks chances...

Until there were 49 seconds remaining in the period. The Predators had the puck in their zone but failed to control it and clear the puck. Patrick Sharp got control of the puck and slipped it to Patrick Kane, who whistled a quick wrist shot by Rinne to tie the game at 1.

As this season has progressed, the Predators have started to discover their identity, and that is one that incorporates speed, solid defense, and aggressive forechecking. Those characteristics were on display in the second quarter. After being outshot 9-8 in the first period, the Predators came out skating hard in the second and recorded the first 6 shots on goal en route to outshooting the Blackhawks 11-6.

That effort paid off with a Craig Smith goal at 6:00 of the second. Marty Erat broke into the zone, drew the defense to him and found Smith alone just inside the face off circle. Smith roofed a shot over the shoulder of Corey Crawford to make it 2-1 Predators.

This lead would stand until 11:51 of the second as Patrick Kane found Nick Leddy with a nice pass from behind the net and he lasered a shot past Rinne to tie the game at 2.

The Blackhawks gave the Predators a prime opportunity to take the lead again as Patrick Sharp was called for goaltender interference and just 25 seconds later Dave Bolland fired the puck over the glass to give the Predators a 5 on 3 advantage. Patric Hornqvist made the Hawks pay for their transgressions as he took a pass from Ryan Suter and used Brent Seabrook as a screen to fire the puck past Crawford to make it 3-2 at 18:48 of the second period.

Once again, a young team early in the season was going into the third period with a lead. Would this team show maturity and be able to hold the lead?

The Blackhawks opened the third period buzzing and the Predators were back on their heels. The pressure paid off for the Hawks as the Predators turned the puck over at  the Chicago blue line and Patrick Kane broke in on Rinne and fired a shot that trickled through between his arm and his body to tie the game at 3 at 14:59. This was a goal that Rinne would like to have back.

The Predators then started to go into self destruct mode. Marty Erat was called for slashing and almost immediately Jerred Smithson was called for roughing and Matt Halischuk got a 10 minute misconduct penalty. The Blackhawks would now have nearly 2 minutes of a 5 on 3 power play.

The Predators penalty killers did an amazing job killing off the 5 on 3 with great hustle and determination. Kudos to those guys on the PK unit, because their play throughout the night was spectacular.

Brian Bickell put the Hawks ahead 4-3 as the cycle down low worked to perfection for Chicago and he rocketed a shot past Rinne at 13:08.

That lead lasted 1:41 as David Legwand buried a rebound of a Jordin Tootoo shot at 14:49 to tie the game at 4.

Once again, the Predators PK unit was going to be called upon to hold off the Hawks as Ryan Suter was called for slashing. The Predators kept tempting fate, giving the Hawks their 7th power play of the night.

And once again, the PK unit did their job, aided by an amazing save by Rinne as he sprawled to take a way a scoring opportunity by Kane who was alone in front of the net.

Regulation ended with the teams tied at 4. The Predators were not able to hold another third period lead, but unlike some earlier games in the season, they fought back to take the powerful Hawks to overtime and earn a point.

In the third period, the Hawks outshot the Predators 18-8. Frankly, as much pressure as the Hawks put on the Predators, the Preds were lucky to get a point.

Just 30 seconds into overtime, Pekka Rinne made an incredible save to keep the Hawks off the board.

Viktor Stalberg ended the contest with a blast at 2:37 of the overtime period, beating Rinne stick side.

This is a game that the Predators will look back upon and realize that they gave away a point. Kudos to the team for fighting back, but this is another instance of sloppy play and sitting back on their heels that cost the Predators a win. Once again, this team failed to seal the deal in the third period.

There were bright spots for the Predators to be sure. I liked the way they fought back in this contest, and their work ethic was good.

This team is on the cusp of being good- very good. But it will take some more maturing for this team to get to that level. There are painful steps in that learning process.

Like tonight.

My three stars:

1. Patric Hornqvist

2. Patrick Kane

3. Viktor Stalberg

No comments:

Post a Comment