Sunday, November 6, 2011

Predators Cap an Improbale Comeback, Defeat Sharks 4-3 in OT

The Nashville Predators continued their west coast swing with a visit to the Shark Tank to take on the San Jose Sharks. The Tank has not been a hospitable place for the Predators, and they were looking to change their fortunes in the second meeting between the two teams.

Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, while Antti Niemi was in net for the Sharks.

Although the first period was scoreless, it was not for lack of effort by the Sharks. They blasted shot after shot at Rinne, a total of 18 in the period. Rinne was stellar, making some big saves to keep the Sharks off the board.

By contrast, Niemi had little work on his end of the ice, facing only 7 shots, and most of his saves were of a routine variety as the Predators rarely challenged the Sharks tender with serious offensive pressure.

The way this game started, it appeared as if the Predators were going to spend the entire game chasing the Sharks around the ice. The lack of offensive pressure was disconcerting and left Predator fans wondering where their offense was.

Apparently Head Coach Barry Trotz had a heart to heart talk with his team at intermission, because the Predators came out with more jump. Their efforts paid off at 1:02 of the period as David Legwand tipped a shot from Colin Wilson while driving the net to stake the Predators to a 1-0 lead.

The Sharks tied the game at 4:40 when Joe Pavelski took a nice pass from Logan Couture and beat Rinne stick side. This play was set up by good forechecking pressure from the Sharks, which they used to perfection in the first two periods to create havoc in the Predators zone.

The Sharks took a 2-1 lead at 9:50 of the period as Martin Havlat scored off a goal mouth scramble. Logan Couture was in the crease after being knocked down and appeared to be impeding the ability of Rinne to get over to the side of the net, but it was a non call and the goal stood.

The relentless forecheck of the Sharks was causing problems for the Predators, and everyone knew that it was not going to let up in the third period. The Predators were going to have to find a way to break the pressure and get through the neutral zone and establish their offense to have a chance in the third period.

In the second period, the Predators outshot the Sharks 13-10, indicative of a better effort by the Predators. It was going to be imperative that the Predators bring this kind of effort in the final twenty minutes.

The Sharks opened a 2 goal lead as the puck took a strange carom off the end board and went out front right to the stick of Logan Couture, who buried the shot past an out of position Rinne just 50 seconds into the period. The Sharks are tough enough without fluky goals going into the Predators net.

Patric Hornqvist pulled the Predators back to within one goal as Shea Weber took a wrist shot from the point that Niemi could not control. Hornqvist found the puck laying in the blue paint and tapped it home at 2:57 of the third. That was Hornqvist's 6th goal in the last 5 five games.

Ryan Suter tied the game at 5:58 of the third on the power play. With Patrick Marleau in the box, Suter worked his way to the high slot and rifled a shot past a screened Niemi with Craig Smith in front. For the Predators, this was their first power play goal in three attempts.

The remainder of the third period saw both teams generate some good chances in end to end action. Pekka Rinne preserved a point for the Predators with an amazing save on Joe Pavelski with 28 seconds left in the period and the Predators a man down. Rinne slid across the crease and got a pad on the shot to keep the Sharks off the board.

The third period was the best period of the night in regulation for the Predators. They outshot the Sharks 13-7 and their forecheck was very strong and created chances.

The Predators opened the overtime period with the carryover of the penalty to Jonathan Blum, and they were able to successfully kill off the penalty. 

The Predators capped an improbable comeback as David Legwand roofed a backhand shot over Niemi with Colin Wilson doing the dirty work in front of the net with a great screen. The score came 2:53 into the overtime period.

This was a gritty, character win by the Predators. Down 3-1 early in the third, this team fought back and did not quit. They were down two regulars, Kevin Klein and Sergei Kostitsyn, and broke up their top D pairing of Weber and Suter. They were dominated in the first period, but kept fighting back.

They played Predator hockey, and the result was a victory.

Kudos to Colin Wilson, who skated hard all night, shot the puck, and was screening in front on the game winning goal.

This young team has learned some painful lessons in their early season losses. They are now learning to win these types of games, tough games that require heart.

These lessons are a lot more fun.

My three stars:

1. David Legwand

2. Logan Couture

3. Patric Hornqvist

Honorable mention: Pekka Rinne, Colin Wilson

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