Thursday, February 9, 2012

Senators Stymie the Predators 4-3

The Nashville Predators began a two game road trip by facing the Ottawa Senators in a game in which the Predators looked to get back to their winning ways. The Predators had dropped their previous game in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks, while the Senators were looking to end a 7 game losing streak.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators while the Senators gave Craig Anderson a rest and went with Alex Auld.

Both teams bring speed to their game, and the first period was played with great pace. For the Predators, it was going to be critical that they contain Jason Spezza and his explosive offensive game and the speed of the Senators.

Well... Mr. Spezza made his presence felt early as he roofed a wrist shot from the slot over the shoulder of Rinne to give the Sens a 1-0 lead at 4:46 of the first period. The Predators were guilty during much of the first period of not being physical with the Senators, and Spezza was able to cruise down the slot unchallenged.

Rinne kept the Predators within one as the puck was turned over and a glorious scoring chance in the slot was gloved to thwart the scoring chance.

The Predators created some scoring chances, but were not able to put a puck past Auld until Rookie Gabriel Bourque cranked a wrist shot over the shoulder of Auld at 18:46 of the period. Bourque has brought a physical presence to the line up, and finding a scoring touch is welcome for the Predators. This was Bourque's second NHL goal.

Ottawa out shot Nashville 8-6 in the first period, and the Predators were going to have to tighten up their defense in the second period to slow down the Sens and limit their quality scoring chances.

The Predators did not open the second period the way they wanted, as Sergei Kostitsyn was called for holding, and with 12 seconds left in that penalty, Nick Spaling was called for tripping. The Predators managed to kill both penalties and had a good scoring chance shorthanded but could not convert.

Chris Phillips gave the Sens a 2-1 as he joined the rush and buried a wrist shot at 7:50 of the second period as Rinne had two Senators in front screening.

The Predators answered on the power play as Patric Hornqvist tipped a puck past Auld off a wrist shot from Marty Erat to tie the game at 2 at 12:40 of the second period.

The Predators took a penalty late in the period and although they won the face off in their zone, Nick Spaling had the pick pilfered off his stick and it pinballed off several players before Jason Spezza found the puck and banged it past Rinne at 18:55 of the second.

For the Predators, this game was becoming a frustrating affair as they made mistakes that kept the Senators ahead and the team continually having to fight their way back into the contest. Going into the third period and trailing 3-2, the Predators were going to have to once again claw back into another contest.

Ottawa out shot the Predators 12-11 in the second, but the difference was that the Predators did not finish their chances and they were allowing the Sens good opportunities on which they capitalized.

The third period saw the Predators stymied trying to generate offensive flow. The Sens forechecked well and thwarted the Predators in the neutral zone and did not allow the Predators to enter the zone with speed. Offensive chances were limited and the Predators could not get their offense in gear.

The Predators fell behind 4-2 as Chris Phillips knocked in a rebound on the power play. Once again, the Predators were making mistakes and the Sens were making them pay for their transgressions. Phillips tally came at 13:35 and was his second goal of the night and his second of the season.

The hole was deep, time was running out, and the Predators were making the Sens look like world beaters.

Not a formula for winning a hockey game.

The Predators pulled Rinne for the extra attacker with 1:30 to go in the game. Even with the extra attacker, the Predators failed to generate much offense. They finally cracked the scoreboard with 10 seconds to go as Marty Erat banged home the rebound of a Shea Weber slap shot in a scramble around the net to make it 4-3.

The Predators could not get off a shot in the final 10 seconds and lost 4-3. This was a disappointing loss for the Predators because they got outworked in the third period, took numerous penalties, and made mistakes that wound up in the back of their net. They even managed to make Chris Phillips look like a scoring machine.

Just not very good hockey by the boys tonight.

Not much else can be said about this effort and this game. Poor play is not something this team can overcome, and tonight's play was poor.

It's now time for the Predators to get back to playing Predator hockey. Focused, aggressive hockey. Limiting mistakes and playing with a purpose. Characteristics that were absent for most of this night.

My three stars:

1. Jason Spezza

2. Chris Phillips

3. Patric Hornqvist

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