Thursday, October 27, 2011

Predators Light Up the Lightning 5-3

The Nashville Predators re-discovered the simplicity of hockey in their home tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Shoot the puck, and you have a good chance to score.

The Nashville Predators shot the puck and did so very efficiently, notching 5 goals on 27 shots en route to a 5-3 win over the the Lightning at Bridgestone Arena.

For the Predators, this was their first win on home ice in four attempts, and could not have come at a better time for a team struggling to find its identity.

The Lightning went with Mathieu Garon in net, while the Predators had their stalwart, Pekka Rinne between the pipes.

There is no doubt that the Lightning have an offensively explosive team, and for the Predators to have a shot at victory, they were going to have to play solid defense and force the Lightning to spend time in their zone defending the Predators.

The home team did that pretty well tonight.

Rookie Craig Smith continued his stellar play as he connected with Sergei Kostitsyn on a two on one rush up the ice. Smith fed Kostitsyn at the side of the net with a beautiful pass and Kostitsyn buried the shot at 6:25 of the first period to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Kostitsyn figured into the second Predators goal of the period as he corraled the puck in the offensive zone and patiently waited for an opening. He found Mike Fisher alone at the side of the net and got him the puck through traffic for an easy tap in to make it 2-0 Predators at 14:05 of the first.

The Lightning got on the board at 16:36 of the first as Ryan Malone dug the puck off the board to Teddy Purcell. Purcell found Steven Stamkos alone in the slot and he roofed a backhand over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 2-1.

The Lightning tied the game on the power play with just 27 seconds left in the first period. With Jordin Tootoo in the box for a questionable charging call, Teddy Purcell tallied to make it a 2-2 game going into the first intermission.

The first period saw the Predators exert some good offensive pressure and skate as well as they had skated all season. The two goals were a direct result of their effort in the neutral zone with good breakouts and in the offensive zone with good puck movement and quality- and numerous- shots.

The fact remained that the Predators were in this game as Pekka Rinne made some outstanding saves and held the Lightning off the board early in the contest. For the Predators to have a chance to win this game, they were going to have to play a consistent game for all three periods. The second period was going to be critical for the Predators.

The question of how they would play in the second period was answered resoundingly by the Predators, as they chased starting netminder Garon from the game with 3 goals. Dwayne Roloson came on in relief of Garon.

Two of the three goals were from players that desperately needed to get off the schnide, as both Patric Horqvist and Nick Spaling found the back of the net. Hornqvist recorded his first goal of the year at 7:43 of the second period as he crashed the net and banged home a rebound. Spaling was camped at the top of the blue paint and slid a rebound through Garon's pads at 11:20.

The final nail in the coffin for Garon was Mike Fisher's second goal of the night, a rocket that hit both posts and went in at 12:10 of the second. Fisher now has four points in his two games back in action after missing the first seven games of the season.

Garon must hate facing the Predators, as his lifetime record fell to 2-8-2 against them.

Steven Stamkos tallied his second goal of the night at 17:03 of the third to make the final margin 5-3 for the Predators. The Predators shut down the Lightning for the remainder of the period, and finally a home win. Iit must have felt good to celebrate at center ice to the cheers of the home crowd.

The Predators played their game in this contest, and when they play that style- using their speed, aggressively forechecking, blocking shots and controlling the neutral zone- they are usually successful. The difference tonight is that the Predators shot the puck and forced the Lightning netminders to make saves. The shots came from all angles and created numerous chances, something this team has been unable or unwilling to do in previous contests. This is reflected in the shot totals, with Tampa Bay outshooting the Predators by only five shots 32-27. This is the first game this season that the shot differential has been in single digits, and although the Predators were outshot, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Unlike the loss to San Jose, when 9 forwards had one shot or less, only one forward, Blake Geoffrion, did not record a shot on goal. This is much improved, and for continued success, must happen every night.

This game is a clear indication of the ability of this team. The mark of their maturity will be to string together games that have this kind of effort, especially on the offensive side of the ledger.

I know Pekka Rinne appreciates the goal support. It's time for this team to start making his life easier.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Nick Spaling

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