Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Predators Vanquish Vancouver 3-1

The Nashville Predators continue through the Murderer's Row segment of their schedule by facing the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena, facing a Canucks team that had won four straight games and had not lost in regulation in their last 13 games.

Daunting?

No doubt.

Impossible?

No way.

The Predators faced a tall task in attempting to shut down the potent Canucks offense, and they would be relying on the solid play of netminder Pekka Rinne to backstop the effort. New Predator Hal Gill would be called on to play some solid minutes against the Canucks second line led by Ryan Kessler.

Both were outstanding.

Roberto Luongo was in net for the Canucks, and he came up with some big save against the Predators to keep the score respectable.

The first period was scoreless, but both teams created some good chances. The Canucks cycle game worked very well in the first period, and the first five minutes of the contest was spent in the Predators zone. The Predators weathered the attack and got their feet moving and started skating with the Canucks, generating some chances but, like the Canucks, were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.

The first period ended with the Canucks out shooting the Predators 12-11.

The fireworks started in the second period, and it was the Predators that capitalized first. With Henrik Sedin in the box for tripping, the Predators went to work on the power play. Ryan Suter found Mike Fisher alone at the side of the net and whipped a pass to him. Fisher took took whacks at the puck and got it to trickle over the goal line to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 5:42 of the second period.

The Predators gave the Canucks an opportunity to get right back into the game, as Colin Wilson was in the box for hooking. The Predators PK once again was solid, killing the penalty.

Once again, the Predators PK unit was called upon to kill another penalty, as Francis Buillon was called for tripping at 12:29. The unit did more than kill the penalty as Mike Fisher got control of the puck at the Predators blue line. Fisher froze Sami Salo with a great move and started a 2 on 1 break with Sergei Kostitsyn. With Alex Edler back on defense, Fisher drove the net and sent a backhand saucer pass to a streaking Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn showed great eye hand coordination as he got the puck on his stick and one time a shot past a falling and flailing Luongo to make it 2-0 Predators at 13:16 of the second.

The Canucks would cut the lead to 2-1 at 16:52 of the second as Roman Josi had the puck along the boards but fell. He managed to slipped the puck to David Legwand, who also fell and turned the puck over to Dale Weise. Weise was able to walk in alone and roofed a backhand over Rinne's blocker for the score.

Late in the period, Canucks pest Alex Burrows boarded Shea Weber near the Predators bench. There was no call, and Weber responded by throwing Burrows to the ice. Burrows apparently failed to realize who he was facing, as he decided to drop the gloves with Weber. Weber quickly slammed Burrows to the ice without a punch being thrown. Frankly, Burrows is lucky that Weber didn't throw a punch.

If you are going to poke the bear, you had better have a pair.

Vancouver out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second, and went to the locker room trailing by one. Although the Predators had the lead, it was going to be a war in the third period, and it was critical that the Predators not sit back as they had done in the Dallas game in the third period. They would not survive the Canucks if they did so.

The third period was a back and forth affair, with both teams creating some very good chances. The majority of those went to the Predators, and Luongo made some good saves to keep the Predators off the board and the Canucks within one goal.

That would change at 17:09 as David Legwand would fire a wrist shot of a puck that was on edge and the shot cleanly beat Luongo over his shoulder to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

With Luongo pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators held off the final push of the Canucks for a big 3-1 win. The win pushed the Predators to 76 points, within 8 of Western Conference leading Detroit and within 3 points of idle St. Louis.

Pekka Rinne was again solid in net. Perhaps his biggest save came in the second period as he dove across the net and deflected a shot from Aaron Rome with his blocker to keep the game 2-0 at that time. With the win, Rinne now leads the League with 33 victories.

The addition of Hal Gill showed how important the big defenseman will be to the Predators effort in the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. Gill was matched up against Ryan Kessler's line and he continually frustrated  Kessler with his physical presence. Kessler was held to 3 shots on goal, no points, and was a -1.

The Predators finished their season series with the Canucks 2-1-1.

This was a solid win by the Predators as they skated well and showed they can compete with one of the best teams in the West. Not only compete, but vanquish them.

The road ahead gets no easier for the Predators. Tough divisional opponent St. Louis is up next.

Play this kind of game, and you will vanquish them as well.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

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