Persevere verb "to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of obstacles, difficulty,or discouragement"
The Nashville Predators faced the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena in a contest that required the Predators to persevere, fight, and claw their way to a 4-3 win for their fourth straight win and even their season series with the Red Wings at one game each.
The Predators faced a significant test against the Red Wings, who had been red hot and playing some of the best hockey of any team in the NHL. Everyone knew this one would be a tough test for the Predators.
It was that, and then some.
Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, while Detroit countered with Jimmy Howard. Rinne was tested early and often throughout the contest, as the Wings fired a total of 40 shots at the Nashville net. Jimmy Howard faced 21 shots from the Predators.
Detroit opened the scoring on the power play as Ryan Suter was called for a weak hooking call and was in the box. Ian White sent a shot toward the net that pinballed off several sticks and legs, eventually coming to Tomas Holmstrom alone at the side of the net. Holmstrom had an easy tap in to give the Wings a 1-0 lead.
The Predators answered the Wings score at 10:09 of the first period as David Legwand took a shot from the left side of the net that Howard stopped with his pad. The rebound came right back to Legwand, and he lifted the puck over a sprawling Howard to knot the game at 1.
Tied going into the second period, the Wings asserted themselves. They outshot the Predators 15-5, controlled the puck for long stretches, and thoroughly stymied the Predators offensive effort. Oh, by the way, they also scored two goals.
The first of those goals came at 10:03 of the second with the Wings on another power play. Jerred Smithson was in the box for hooking, and the Wings got control of the puck down low. A nice tic tac toe pass from Todd Bertuzzi to Juri Hudler to Henrik Zetterberg found Zetterberg alone at the side of the net and he had a virtually empty net in which to shoot the puck to give the Wings a 2-1 lead.
Nicklas Lidstrom made it 3-1 Detroit at 11:30 of the period as he beat Rinne with a shot from the blue line at even strength. For Predator fans, things looked grim. Detroit was 18-0 when they had a 2 goal lead and the Predators offense was virtually invisible, having failed to record a shot on net for 11 minutes in the period.
The Predators would show some signs of life as Jordin Tootoo tallied off a rebound of a Kevin Klein shot to beat Howard and make it 3-2 Detroit at 17:22 of the period. Tootoo continues his strong play with his 9th point in the last 10 games, and he has brought a spark and a scoring touch to his line that the Predators have long expected out of him and that they have desperately needed.
Detroit is strong on the puck, and in the third period, they continued to control the puck and keep the Predators hemmed in their own end. With the clock melting away, it appeared as if the Wings would strangle the life out of the Predators.
The momentum would turn toward the Predators at the 15:14 mark of the third period, as Jimmy Howard was called for hooking, the only Detroit penalty of the night. The Predators would make the Wings pay for this transgression at 15:36 of the third as Shea Weber unleashed a blast from just inside the blue line. Patric Hornqvist was screening Howard, and the puck flew past the Detroit netminder to tie the game at 3.
That goal energized the crowd, who was in full throat in support of the Predators, and the home team responded.
The Predators got the puck into the zone, and Jordin Tootoo got the puck to Weber at the blue line. He took a wrist shot that bounced about 10 feet in front of Howard and skipped over his shoulder to give the Predators a 4-3 lead.
The Predators were able to hold off the final push by the Wings with Howard out of the net and the extra attacker on the ice. As they horn sounded, the crowd erupted, and as improbable as it might seem, the Predators had the 4-3 win over their rival.
After the game, I heard someone say that the Predators "stole" that game from Detroit. Here is the aspect that one should keep in mind: the Predators kept themselves in a position to win that game- "steal" it if you insist- by persevering. It would have been easy to quit, to let Detroit continue to dominate and choke the life out of the Predators. The fact that this team didn't quit and kept fighting is telling.
The bottom line is that they put themselves into a position to win the game.
Here is a blinding flash of the obvious: Detroit is talented. They are well coached. They are experienced. Those characteristics overshadow the fact that the Predators faced adversity and they were in a 2 goal hole, but they continued to push, they continued to skate, and there was no quit in them.
This is a young team that is growing up right before our eyes. They are learning to fight, to scrap, and to persevere.
More importantly, they are learning to win.
This is the result of a total buy in of what the coaching staff has been teaching. It is a result of believing in the coaches and the teammates on the ice.
There will be more tests of this young squad, and more chances to persevere.
This contest with the Wings shows this team that they are never out of a contest.
Just keep persevering.
My three stars:
1. Shea Weber
2. Jordin Tootoo
3. Nicklas Lidstrom