Saturday, February 25, 2012

Predators Turn the Sharks to Sushi 6-2

Gonna be brief on this blog as I am typing with one hand and the drugs are kicking in*

The Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks 6-2 at the Bridgestone Arena to run their point total to 79 and firmly hold on to the fifth spot on the /western Conference.

Pekka Rinne won his 34th game, best in the NHL and a personal record for the stellar netminder. Rinne made some big saves in this game and carried the Predators in the third period as the Sharks outshot the Predators in the final frame by a 16-3 margin.

The Predators scored on their first two shots as Colin Wilson and Shea Weber potted goals off odd man rushes. Jordin Tootoo played a strong game, setting up the first goal by stealing the puck from Colin White and feeding the puck to a breaking Colin Wilson, who beat Antti Niemi low stick side for a 1-0 lead. Tootoo's hard work behind the net to gain control of the puck and set up Nick Spaling for a one timer from the slot capped the scoring for the Predators, making the score 6-2.

Shea Weber tallied the first of his two goals off a 3 on 2 rush. Sergei Kostitsyn made a nice pass across the slot to Weber, who roofed the puck over Niemi to make it 2-0 Predators on their first two shots of the game. Weber would later tally on a blast from the blue line while the Predators were on the power play in the second period.

The Sharks cut the lead to 2-1 on a goal by Patrick Marleau from the top of the blue paint at 10:58 of the first period.

The Predators showed great resilience in this game by answering each challenge to their lead by the Sharks. Kevin Klein stretched the lead back to two goals by notching his 4th goal with a shot from just inside the blue line. Klein tied his season high with this goal. Niemi had allowed 3 goals on 7 shots and was pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss.

Joe Pavelski scored just 23 seconds into the second period with a shot from just inside the face off circle to make it 3-2. Weber gave the Predators a 4-2 lead with his power play tally.

The third period was all Sharks and all Rinne. The Sharks pounded the predator net with 16 shots and were territorially dominant in the final frame. Rinne was more than up to the challenge, turning away numerous opportunities by the Sharks, many with heavy traffic in front. San Jose scored, but the goal was waved off as the Sharks interfered with Rinne. No penalty was called on the play as incidental contact with Rinne was called on the ice.

Greiss was pulled with 2:12 remaining for the extra attacker, and Marty Erat buried an empty netter to make it 5-2. Spaling tallied at 19:18 to make it 6-2, the final score.

In this game, the Predators did an exceptional job of supporting the puck, something they failed to do in their previous game. This lead to a good cycle in the offensive zone and some quality scoring chances. The breakouts through the neutral zone were crisp and allowed the Predators to gain entry into the offensive zone with speed, which gave the Sharks problems.

What can be said about the play of Rinne? He absolutely carried the team on his back in the third period. The Predators spent much of the period hemmed in their own zone, and the Sharks were sending pucks and players to the net. Rinne was stellar, tracking the puck through traffic and making numerous big saves. His play continues to be amazing, and you can see teams getting frustrated as they realize they cannot beat the athletic netminder. Thanks, Pekka, for an outstanding effort tonight.

The Predators continue to get balanced scoring and solid defense and netminding. This is a winning formula, and they have to continue this level of play to keep pace with the competitive Central Division.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Shea Weber

3. Jordin Tootoo

* shoulder surgery yesterday has limited the use of one arm

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