Saturday, December 10, 2011

Predators Down the Ducks 3-2

The Nashville Predators were looking to string together some wins and especially to reverse their fortunes on home ice, where they had the worst home record in the NHL. What better opponent to face than the struggling Anaheim Ducks.

Nashville once again had workhorse Pekka Rinne in net, while the Ducks went with former Nashville Predator Dan Ellis.

The first period was scoreless but not without controversy. Colin Wilson scored for the Predators on the power play, but the goal was waved off because it was deemed by referee Stephan Auger that Wilson had kicked the puck into the net. The replay did not confirm this, but after a lengthy review, the call on the ice stood.

The first period was scoreless, but the Predators had a decided territorial advantage and out shot the Ducks 7-5. Ellis made some good saves to keep the Predators off the board, but the effort by the Predators was one of their best of the season. They controlled the puck for long stretches at a time and did not let the explosive Ducks offense get in gear. For the Predators, the task was to solve Ellis and find the back of the net.

The Ducks opened the second period with a score just 38 seconds into the second frame. Andrew Gordon took a feed from Brandon McMillan and walked out of the corner with it past defenseman Roman Josi, who had fallen and was scrambling to catch up to Gordon. Gordon fired a snap shot that beat Rinne to the far post to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.

The Predators appeared to tie the game when Mike Fisher banged home a rebound in a goal mouth scramble, but once again, the Predators had the goal waved off as it was ruled to have been kicked in.

Could it be one of those nights?

The answer would be a resounding "No".

Nick Spaling took a nice pass from Colin Wilson across the slot and beat Ellis high glove side to tie the game at 1 at 12:03 of the second period. This goal was not waved off.

The Predators once again dominated the period, maintaining a huge territorial advantage in the offensive zone and out shooting the Ducks 13-5, yet the game was tied at 1 heading into the third period.

The game was in the balance, and it was going to be important for the Predators to step up and take control.

And that is just what they did.

With Brandon McMillan in the box for slashing Jordin Tootoo, Roman Josi took a feed from Shea Weber and unleashed a rocket from just inside the blue line. The shot beat a screened Ellis over his glove to make it 2-1 Predators at 2:33 of the third.

Jordin Tootoo extended the Predators lead to 3-1 as Kevin Klein found Toots streaking in and hit him with a pass at the Ducks blue line. Tootoo drove hard to the net and his hard wrist shot beat Ellis over his glove hand at 5:25 of the third period.

Francois Beauchemin scored for Anaheim at 13:24, beating Rinne high over his glove to cut the lead to one for the Predators.

The Predators managed to shut the Ducks down for the remainder of the period and had won consecutive games for the first time since November 17th. More importantly, they had protected their home ice.

The Predators did a good job of overcoming adversity, having two goals waved off by the officials. Their ability to bounce back and persevere has been what this team has inconsistently done throughout this season, and it was good to see the resiliency of this team shine through.

I mentioned that the Predators had a territorial advantage throughout all three periods. The shot totals reflect that, with the Predators out shooting the Ducks 28-17. This would not have happened if the Predators had not been dominant in the face off dot. Particular mention goes to Mike Fisher, who was 10 of 13 in the dot, and was especially strong in the offensive zone. This was very important to the Predators as they were able to maintain possession, particularly on their power plays.

About that power play: although they were 1 of 4, they dominated with the man advantage. There was one power play that stands out. The Predators kept the puck in the offensive zone for 1:40 before the Ducks could get a clear. The movement was better and the chances that the man advantage created were good scoring chances. This has to continue for the Predators.

Although the Ducks are struggling- heck, let's call it like it is- they are inept, this was a solid win for the Predators. Their defensive effort against the Ducks offensive weapons was exceptional, shutting them down all night. A great effort from Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Having Frankie Buillon back in the line up settles the other pairings as well, and their work tonight was very good.

This team is developing their edge again. They are playing Predator hockey- aggressively forechecking, opportunistic offense, and solid defense.

Keep playing like this and you will down some more teams.

My three stars:

1, Jordin Tootoo

2. Roman Josi

3. Mike Fisher

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