The Nashville Predators ventured to Nassau Coliseum for their only meeting of the year against the New York Islanders in an afternoon matinee. The Predators looked to continue their hot play of late, as they have won 13 of their last 17 games their last 4 games.
The Predators went with (surprisingly since there is a game tomorrow) with Pekka Rinne in net, while the Isles gave Kevin Poulin the start.
It was going to be important for the Predators to get off to a good start against the Islanders and not let them get momentum in this game. The Predators did just that at 2:17 of the first period as Sergei Kostitsyn skated the puck over the blue line and using an Islanders defenseman as a screen blistered a wrist shot that went over the shoulder of of the Isles netminder Kevin Poulin to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. This was the Predators first shot on goal, and for Kostitsyn it continues his amazing shooting percentage as he has 11 goals on only 41 shots.
Matt Halischuk extended the Predators lead to 2-0 as he carried the puck across the blue and drove hard to the net. Halischuk wrist shot from the face off circle beat Poulin cleanly at 5:34 of the first period. This was Halischuk's 10th goal of the season.
The Predators added their third goal of the period on a beautiful give and go between Marty Erat, Colin Wilson, and David Legwand. Erat gave the puck to Wilson, who found the streaking David Legwand, who was unimpeded heading to the net. Legwand buried the shot past an out of position Poulin at 11:37 of the first period to make it 3-0 Predators.
The first period ended with the Predators killing off most of a penalty to Colin Wilson for elbowing. It appeared as if the Islanders were finally starting to get their legs as they began to generate some chances, and Pekka Rinne made a couple of big stops. In the period, the Predators out shot the Islanders 12-6.
The Islanders have very good speed, and it was going to be important for the Predators to keep their foot on the gas and not let them creep back in this game.
The Predators had some good chances in the second, but Poulin settled down and was able to stop the offensive attack. Unable to bury the puck, Poulin seemed to be more confidant, and in turn, the Islanders responded with good offensive presence.
The Predators gave the Isles a good chance to claw back into the game as both Gabriel Bourque took a penalty, followed shortly after by a high sticking penalty to Mike Fisher. The Isles had 1:10 of a 5 on 3. The defense did a good job of blocking shots and keeping the Isles to the outside. Pekka Rinne demonstrated his athleticism and made some huge saves to keep the puck out of the net.
The Islanders continued to pressure the Predators in their defensive zone and Rinne was called upon to make some quality saves to frustrate the scoring threat. He came up huge in the second period, stopping all 19 shots he faced. The Predators had 10 for the period.
Ryan Suter did not play in the second period, and was called out for the remainder of the game with an upper body injury.
Going into the third period, it would be critical for the Predators to get their offensive mojo back. There were too many stretches in the second where the Predators let the Islanders dictate the play, and this needed to change in the final 20 minutes.
The third period was back and forth, with both teams creating some chances, but neither able to solve the others netminder. The Isles finally broke through at 16:02 of the third when John Tavares got behind Francis Buillon and was able to tip a puck past Rinne to make it 3-1.
The Islanders pulled Poulin with 2:10 remaining in the game for the extra attacker and were pressing the Predators in an attempt to cut the lead to one.
The Predators were able to hold off the final push by the Islanders and secured their fifth straight win by a margin of 3-1. The Islanders out shot the Predators 37-32.
It is good to see the Predators get out to a fast start. Although the Islanders have struggled this season, they are a fast and dangerous team, and taking the wind out of their sails early was a big factor in this win.
Pekka Rinne was outstanding, making some great saves, especially in the second period when the Islanders were fighting to get back in the game. Keeping the Islanders off the board during with their aggressive play was critical to securing this win.
For the Predators, this win is another important 2 points. To keep pace with their competitors in the Wast, this is what the Predators have to do. They can only control their fate, not what their competitors are doing. And the best way to control their fate is to keep winning.
They will get another chance tomorrow against the Rangers, the best team in the East.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Sergei Kostitsyn
3. Matt Halischuk