The Nashville Predators took on the Washington Capitals at the Bridgestone Arena in a game that had all the characteristics of a heavyweight fight. Both teams took shots at the other, both teams had surges, and in the end, only one team was left standing.
That team was the Nashville Predators.
The Predators went with Pekka Rinne, while the Capitals countered with former Predator Tomas Vokoun.
For 55 minutes, it was a contest that went back and forth, with each team getting opportunities and both netminders making excellent saves.
Punch and counter punch.
The Predators opened the first period flying and generated some quality chances. Vokoun was up to the task for the Caps, while Rinne was solid at the other end of the ice. The Predators did a good job in this period of limiting secondary scoring chances as the Caps often got one shot on net and the defense was there to clear the puck and start the breakout.
The Predators out shot the Capitals 10-8 in that period.
In the second period, the Capitals asserted themselves. They created scoring opportunities and outworked the Predators throughout the period. Their 15 shots on goal to 8 for the Predators was testimony to their effort in the Predators zone. Rinne was called upon to make some tough saves to keep the Capitals off the board.
The Predators had a glorious scoring chance as Mike Fisher had a breakaway but was topped by the right pad of Vokoun. This was by far the best scoring opportunity for the Predators, and this game had the feel of one that would be decided by the first team that would crack under the pressure of a tight contest.
In the third period, the Predators got their feet moving again, and although out shot 17-13, they created some good scoring opportunities. Yet they were unable to solve Vokoun as the period wore on, and Predator fans were left wondering if they would find the back of the net.
Although there was a better effort in the offensive zone, the Predators went down 1-0 at 15:14 as Troy Brouwer took a shot that deflected off a Mike Fisher and over the shoulder of Rinne.
With the way this game had gone to this point, one had to wonder if the Predators could solve Vokoun and salvage a point.
The Predators would do better than get a point.
Just 28 seconds after Washington took the lead, the Predators would tie the game. Shea Weber carried the puck deep in the zone and slid a pass to Marty Erat, who was driving the off wing. Erat got behind the defensive coverage and tapped the puck into an empty net to tie the game at 1.
The Predators were energized by that goal and were skating hard in the final minutes. Their effort paid off as Marty Erat took the puck behind the net and slipped it to Colin Wilson who was driving the net. Wilson had an open net and buried the shot as he was being leveled by a Caps defender to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 19:35.
With the face off at center ice, the Capitals chose to pull Vokoun for the extra attacker. The Predators controlled the face off and Shea Weber iced the win with an empty netter from the blue line at 19:40.
This was a character win by the Predators. They battled hard with the Capitals- a very good team that has an explosive offense- and took their best shot and came out with the victory. The Predators were able to keep the potent trio of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin off the board. They created some good scoring chances and capitalized (pardon the pun) on their opportunities in crunch time.
That critical period of the game when the team was down one and time was running out. The time when a lesser team would have folded. The Predators didn't fold, but instead kept fighting back, kept skating hard, and kept creating chances. Their effort didn't wane when it would have been easy for it to do so.
This is the type of win that can define a team. A win that a team can build upon. This game showed this young team that they can compete with one of the better teams in the NHL. Not just compete, but come out on top.
Just one game, but a game on which this team can build and draw upon in this long season.
A game that showed the Predators that they can another team's best shot and still stand victorious.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Marty Erat
3. Colin Wilson