Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Predators Fail to Finish (Again), Fall to Phoenix 3-2

The Nashville Predators fell to the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 at the Bridgestone Arena, dropping another home game and going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Once again, this was a contest that hung in the balance and the unfortunately for the Predators, they were once again unable to finish a game that they had a chance to win.

You can read the box score of the game here.

The Coyotes got on the board just nine seconds into the game on what can be charitably called a soft goal. Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne fielded a shot that hit him in the crest of his jersey. Rinne did not control the puck and it dribbled out under his arm. Rinne thought he had the puck frozen, but it was sitting in the blue paint, and Taylor Pyatt swooped in and swatted the puck into the back of the net just 9 seconds into the game.

Jason Labarbera got the start for the Coyotes, who played last night in Chicago with Mike Smith in net, and he was stellar for the Desert Dogs until the last 10 seconds of the period. Labarbera had shut down any scoring opportunities that the Predators had created until this point, when Jack Hillen fired a puck at the net with Mike Fisher creating havoc in front of Labarbera. The puck eluded the Phoenix netminder and the Predators tied the game with 10.8 seconds remaining in the period.

The second period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Coyotes. They dominated in time of possession and fired 11 shots on Rinne to just 5 for the Predators in the period. Rinne made some good saves to keep the Predators in the contest.

The Coyotes would take a 2-1 lead at 1:40 of the third period as 2 Predators were tied up with Radim Vrbata below the goal line. Vrbata got control of the puck and found Ray Whitney alone in the low slot. Whitney's one timer beat Rinne glove side to give the Coyotes the lead.

The Predators would tie the contest at 2 at at 12:53 of the third period on a 5 on 3 power play. Shea Weber would get loose just inside the blue line, and his rocket shot would beat Labarbera to knot the contest.

Labarbera made several huge saves to keep the Predators off the board, and it looked as if the two teams would be heading to overtime.

The notion of overtime would be squelched at 18:15 of the third period as Keith Yandle was able to evade the Predators defensive coverage, and take a cross ice pass from Shane Doan. His one timer beat Rinne for the Coyotes margin of victory.

The Predators did not muster much of an offensive challenge in the remaining time, having trouble even getting the puck in the offensive zone. Once again, the Predators failed to finish in a contest they desperately needed to win.

The Predators are a fragile team right now. This come with being a young team that is learning on the fly, and it is painful. When the Predators make a mistake, more often than not it is winding up in the back of their net. This has victimized the Predators too often in this skid.

It victimized them again tonight.

A defensive lapse, a soft goal, and the Predators are finding themselves in a hole. And once in a hole, the offense cannot generate sufficient firepower to overcome the deficit.

The Predators are hustling  and beginning to shoot the puck more. These are positives. I cannot fault their effort in the last few losses.

The fact is that this team, as it is constructed now, cannot overcome many mistakes in their game. They have to play nearly flawless hockey to secure a win, and right now, that is not happening.

This is what you get when you have a young team. The mistakes are more problematic and they tend to wind up in your net. This is part of the painful learning process that a young team has to endure.

Keep your head up boys. Keep working hard. The lessons that are being painfully learned now will pay off for you in the future.

There is only one way out of this funk in which you find yourselves.

Keep working hard.

And finish.

My three stars:

1. Jason Labarbera

2. Keith Yandle

3. Jack Hillen

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