Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kostitsyn's Hat Trick Leads Predators Past the Flames

New Year's day signifies the start of something new, a chance to begin afresh.

For the Nashville Predators, their contest with the Calgary Flames started in a way that was anything but new. They gave up the first goal and allowed the Flames to hold a significant territorial advantage in the first 12:30 of their game at the Bridgestone Arena.

The new year saw the old Predators on the ice.

But it is a new year and a time of new beginnings, and the Predators reversed their fortunes with some strong play to defeat the Flames 5-3 in front of their sixth straight sellout crowd.

The Flames opened the scoring at 3:47 of the first period as Jerome Iginla spun away from Sergei Kostitsyn in the low slot and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with a shot low to the stick side to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. This was Iginla's 499th goal.

Calgary continued to control the puck in the Predators zone, and the Predators were looking much like the Predators team that would come out flat for a period and struggle to establish even the most basic offensive effort. The Predators often looked content to just get the puck out of the zone.

Same old Predators, eh?

Not so fast.

Instead of taking 20 minutes to finally get their game going, the Predators got their legs midway of the period and started to challenge the Flames. They began to get the puck deep and work their cycle to create chances and control possession.

The Predators broke through on the scoreboard at 12:39 of the first period as Kevin Klein, back in the lineup after missing six games with the flu, blasted a slap shot from the blue line that beat a screened Mikka Kiprusoff glove side to tie the game at 1. Critical to this goal was Gabriel Bourque, who battled behind the net and fought to get control of the puck. This play doesn't happen if Bourque does not win that puck battle

That goal served to energize the Predators, as the would dominate the Flames for the rest of the period and all of the second period. For the next 30 minutes, the Predators would play as good a stretch of hockey as they have played all season.

Sergei Kostitsyn would notch the Predators second goal at 15:46 of the period off a nice assist from Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist battled hard in the corner and passed the puck from out of the corner from behind the goal line to Kostitsyn, who was driving hard to the net. Kostitsyn was able to get his stick on the pass and chip the puck over Kiprusoff, who could not get over to cover the left side of the net to make it 2-1.

The Flames out shot the Predators 9-7 in the first period, but the final eight minutes were controlled by the Predators.

They continued to dominate play throughout the second period, out shooting the Flames 14-5 and controlling the puck for long stretches. Calgary went over 10 minutes in the period without a shot on net.

The Predators made it 3-1 just 2:27 into the second period as Matt Halischuk tallied his 9th goal of the year by driving the net and hammering a snap shot past Kirusoff from the slot.

Sergei Kostitsyn would tally his second goal of the contest at 5:59 of the second as he broke in 2 on 1 with Patric Hornqvist. Kostitsyn looked to Hornqvist as if he was going to pass the puck and snapped a wrist shot that beat Kipper five hole to make it 4-1.

Everyone in the arena knew that Calgary would not roll over and would have a push in the third period, and that is just what they did. Rene Bourque scored just 1:17 into the period as he skated into the slot and beat Rinne make it 4-2.

Two goal lead for the Predators and they were still in control, but Calgary kept pushing, trying to draw closer. The Predators did a good job in the period of forcing Calgary to the outside and keeping the Flames forwards from the front of the net. Limiting quality scoring chances was going to be critical for the Predators to secure the victory, and they were doing a good job of doing just that for the bulk of the period.

Calgary cut the lead to 1, 4-3, at 17:57 of the third period as Brenden Morrison was able to beat Rinne by slamming home a rebound of a T. J. Brodie shot.

Kiprusoff was pulled for the extra attacker, and with a face off in the Predators zone, the pucker factor for Predators fans was off the chart.

That anxiety would change to elation as Sergei Kostitsyn corralled a chip out of the zone by Kevin Klein that appeared destined for the empty net and tapped it into the empty net for the final margin of 5-3 for the Predators. For Kostitsyn, this was his first career hat trick, and his timely scoring propelled the Predators to the first win of 2012.

Once again, the Predators were without Shea Weber, who has been moved to Injured Reserve with his concussion, and Colin Wilson, who is out with an upper body injury. Since Weber has been out of the lineup, the Predators are 3-1. They have won 9 of their last 12 games.

Once again, this effort tonight showed that this team can win playing Predator hockey. Timely scoring from throughout the lineup and solid defense and goaltending have been the keys to success for this team. This team will win and will win frequently if they keep playing with this kind of effort.

Both Jordin Tootoo and birthday boy Patric Hornqvist had two assists.

Calgary is a team chasing the Predators in the standings, and it is important that this team take care of business against an opponent that is trying to catch them in the standings.

Hats off for a solid effort.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Kostitsyn

2. Kevin Klein

3. Patric Hornqvist

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