The Nashville Predators played one of their most complete games of the season, dominating the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-2 margin. The Predators power play, which had gone 0-14 in their recent games, exploded for a 4 for 4 performance to lead the Predators in the win.
The Hurricanes were playing the second of back to back games, and since starting netminder Cam Ward had played the night before, Justin Peters got the start. The Predators went with their workhorse and stalwart, Pekka Rinne.
There is no doubt that the Hurricanes have struggled, but new Head Coach Kirk Mueller, recently of the Milwaukee Admirals, has his team competing hard every night. Tonight was no different.
Carolina opened the contest with good jump and controlled the puck early in the Predators zone. The Predators defense did a good job of keeping the Canes to the outside and limiting quality scoring chances.
It took a few minutes, but the Predators started to establish control of the puck and gained a territorial advantage by winning neutral zone battles and getting good breakouts into the Canes offensive zone.
The Predators got on the board at 9:14 of the first period as Shea Weber took a pass from Marty Erat and unleashed a blast from the blue line that cleanly beat Peters. To get an idea of the velocity of that shot, consider that Peters was unscreened and had a good look at the shot and was still beaten over his shoulder by the rocket from the Captain for a 1-0 lead.
Craig Smith extended the lead to 2-0 at 13:16 of the first with the Predators on the power play. Smith took a cross ice pass from David Legwand and uncorked a blistering one timer that beat Peters between his shoulder and the near post. It was good to see Smith get on the board as he had gone 25 games without a goal. For Smith, it was his 9th goal of the season.
In the second period, the Predators were on the power play with Alex Ponikarovsky in the box for tripping. Mike Fisher took a shot from the slot that was tipped through the five hole of Peters by Patric Hornqvist at 17:04. This was Hornqvist's 10th goal of the season.
Rinne made a fantastic glove save to keep the Canes off the board. The puck was bouncing around and skittered to Rinne's right side. A Hurricane player slapped the puck at what appeared to be an open net, but Rinne dove across the ice and the puck landed in his glove for a remarkable save.
Hornqvist notched his second goal of the game at 6:56 of the third period, this another power play tally. Hornqvist was battling in front of the net and was able to find the puck after a shot by Marty Erat. Peters could not control the rebound, and Hornqvist was able to slam home the puck to give the Predators a 4-0 lead.
Jay Harrison scored for the Canes at 8:35 at even strength to make it 4-1.
Hornqvist appeared to have a t hat trick as he was sprawling on the ice and jammed the puck home. As the hats flew on the ice, the goal was reviewed and was inexplicably waved off as it was deemed that Hornqvist had kicked the puck into the net. A questionable decision at best.
The Predators got that 5th goal, once again on the power play, as Ryan Ellis launched a slap shot that beat Peters stick side to make it 5-1 at 14:28 of the third period. Ellis played a solid game, and it was good to see him rewarded with his first NHL goal.
The Canes Jay Harrison struck again on the power play at 17:56 of the third period. Harrison's shot from inside the blue line was going wide of the net, but hit defenseman Ryan Ellis in the butt and caromed past Rinne for the score.
The Predators controlled the play in the waning minutes of the contest and did not give the Canes any quality chances, and as the clock wound down, the 8th straight sellout crowd cheered the Predators 5-2 win.
For the night, the Predators out shot the Hurricanes 36-29. More importantly, a number of their shots were from close in, the quality scoring areas. They crashed the net and generated numerous second chances and they were rewarded for their effort tonight.
On the defensive end of the ice, the Predators did a very good job of keeping the Hurricanes to the outside and not letting them get many shots from close in. Kudos to the Predators defense for their effort tonight.
The concern for the Predators coming out of this game is the health of Francis Buillon. He took a high stick to the mouth that chipped several teeth and required six stitches. He will have a root canal tomorrow and will be evaluated as to his ability to play on Tuesday at Colorado.
This was a solid win by the Predators, and it was due to playing Predator hockey. Shooting the puck and going strong to the net yielded positive results for this team tonight, and this is the way they have to continue to play.
Play like this, and they will continue to blow away opponents.
My three stars:
1. Patric Hornqvist
2. Mike Fisher
3. Ryan Ellis