Saturday, December 17, 2011

Predators Stop St. Louis in a Shoot Out 2-1

The Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues in a shootout by the score of 2-1.

That's the good news.

The rest of the story?

The Predators were out hit, out worked, out shot, and generally out hustled all night. They were fortunate to escape with the win.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, and his effort was outstanding and he single handedly kept the Predators in the contest.

His counterpart, Jaroslav Halak, got the start for the Blues, and he was rarely tested by the Predators.

The Blues out shot the Predators in every period. Embarrassingly so. Here is the bad news in that regard: 14-2; 15-11; and 11-4. The only period where the Predators showed much offensive push was in the overtime session, where the Predators out shot the Blues 3-0.

The first period was scoreless, mainly due to the efforts of Rinne. The Blues controlled the puck throughout the period and fired 11 shots on Rinne. He was solid in net, rarely giving up rebounds, shutting down the Blues second chances.

The first period was a portent of things to come for the Predators. The Predators consistently lost puck battles and were easily taken off the puck. They had a difficult time entering the offensive zone, and when they did, the Blues defense thwarted their offensive effort.

The Predators did not help themselves by taking six penalties in the course of the contest. The Predators PK unit did a good job, but the Predators were flirting with disaster by giving the Blues the man advantage.

The Predators offensive effort was better in the second period, but they could not solve Halak. The Blues were similarly stymied by Rinne at the other end, and the second period was another scoreless 20 minutes. The Blues best scoring chance occurred late in the period when Jamie Langenbrunner gathered in the puck that had squirted out from under Rinne and lifted a shot toward the open net. Defenseman Jack Hillen, backing up Rinne, corralled the puck under his arm and froze it in the blue ice to negate the Blues scoring chance.

The game was taking a decidedly negative feel for the Predators, as their offense was impotent and it appeared to be just a matter of time before the Blues found the back of the net.

Those negative feelings among the Predator faithful would lift at 12:32 of the third period. Mike Fisher stole the puck from Kevin Shattenkirk, who stumbled at the Blues blue line and passed the puck to Shea Weber, breaking in on the left side. Weber drew the defense to him and forced Halak to respect his potential shot. Weber was able to slide the puck to Marty Erat and he buried the puck in the open net to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

That lead disappeared as the Predators were called for too many men on the ice and T.J. Oshie got loose in the slot and beat Rinne five hole to tie the game at 16:08 of the third.

The Predators were whistled for yet again another penalty, this time David Legwand for slashing at 18:31. Once again, the Predators PK killed off the penalty in regulation and the first 29 seconds of the overtime. The remainder of the overtime period was scoreless, although the Predators generated all the offensive chances.

Heading into the shootout, the Predators elected, as they always do, to have the visitors shoot first. Rinne stoned the three Blues shooters, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, and Patrick Bergland. Halak stopped Mike Fisher and Craig Smith, but the Predators third shooter, David Legwand, beat Halak with a great forehand backhand move over his glove for the Predators improbable win.

For the Predators to come out on top in this contest is amazing, considering the way they played. All night, they looked a step slower than the Blues. Frustratingly, they were beaten on the puck or to the puck all night. Yet Pekka Rinne held the Predators in the game with his solid play, and the Predators did just enough to hang around and finally win the game.

It was pretty incredible that the Blues were not whistled for a penalty until the very end of overtime. There will be games like that, and for the Predators, it was imperative that they fight through that type of officiating. Tonight, the PK unit held the Blues to 1 of 6 on the power play, and without that level of play, the Predators could have easily been blown out of the arena.

While it is good to get the win, this contest pointed out that the Predators cannot just skate out on the ice and expect to win many contests. Tonight, they were fortunate. That will not be the case very often.

This game shows the team that they cannot revert back to their former ways when they ere in their losing skid. They have to win puck battles, keep from turning they puck over- which they did a lot tonight- and limit the other team's scoring chances.

This is one of those games where the team can let out its collective breath and say they escaped with a win.

Hopefully, we will take this game and learn from what happened and return to playing a complete game again.

And we will not feel like we escaped with a win.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Marty Erat

3. David Legwand

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