Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vancouver Slips Past the Predators in a Shootout 4-3

Two plays.

Two plays victimized the Predators in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Bridgestone Arena. Two defensive breakdowns led to two quick first period goals by the Canucks en route to a 3-1 first period lead. The Predators fought back to force the shootout, but fell in the sixth round to the Canucks as the visitors won the shootout 2-1.

Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, and he gave up the first goal of the game with Vancouver on a power play. Ryan Kessler beat Rinne with a snap shot from just inside the face off circle at 11:42 of the first period. To this point in the game, the Predators had out shot the Canucks 9-3.

The Predators answered at 13:47 of the first as Colin Wilson took a pass from David Legwand and fired a wrist shot a Roberto Luongo. Bobby Lou let the puck slip between his arm and his body for the tying goal.

With the home crowd in full throat and momentum with the Predators, it appeared as if they had an opportunity to get control of the game.

That is when the first of two bad plays by the Predators occurred.

The Predators were caught in a bad line change and the Canucks capitalized. Byron Bitz scored off a feed from Henrik Sedin as he walked in on Rinne and beat him with a quick wrist shot. The Predators defensive coverage was not in position, and the Canucks made them pay for the mistake at 18:21.

Just 23 seconds later, Daniel Sedin split the defense of Kevin Klein and Roman Josi and buried a shot from the low slot to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead.

Two bad plays, two goals, and another hole for the Predators.

This is the Predators, however, a team that fears no deficit.

The Predators had mounted good pressure against Luongo and the Canucks defense in the first period, and they continued to pressure the Canucks in the second. Time to chip away and get back in the game.

That is exactly what they did just 4:14 into the second period. Kevin Klein took a shot from the blue line, and it hit the skate of Sergei Kostitsyn, who was cutting across the slot. The puck re-directed off the skate of Kostitsyn and past Luongo. After a brief review, the goal was called good by the replay officials and the Predators trailed 3-2.

The Predators would tie the game at 3 at 5:16 of the second as Shea Weber took a shot from the blue line that hit Mike Fisher and squirted between the pads of Luongo. As Luongo moved, the puck was deflected off his leg and trickled over the goal line.

The ability of the Predators to battle back from another deficit, especially against a great team like the Canucks was heartening. It just felt as if the Predators momentum would carry them to a goal that would give them the lead.

It was not to be as both goalies took over the game. Both Rinne and Luongo made some big saves in the remainder of the second period as well as the third period to keep the game knotted at 3. There were times where the Predators controlled the puck in the Vancouver zone and created some good chances, but could not solve Luongo.

The same held true for the Canucks, as they used their excellent cycling ability to control the puck and create some chances. Rinne was up to the task, and the game went to overtime.

In the overtime period, the Predators controlled the puck and had 3 shots on goal, while the Canucks managed 2. Neither team found the net. For the game, the Predators out shot the Canucks 40-31.

In the shootout, Rinne stopped Mason Raymond and Ryan Kessler before Alexander Burrows scored off a nice backhand move. Luongo stopped Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat missed the net. With the game on the line, David Legwand beat Luongo with a backhand to extend the shootout.

Rinne stoned Daniel Sedin and Cody Hodgson before Alex Edler beat him five hole. Luongo stopped Ryan Ellis and Mike Fisher.

With the game on the line, Colin Wilson beat Luongo with a backhand but the puck just went outside the far post, and the Canucks escaped with a 4-3 win.

Vancouver is one of the elite teams in the NHL, and for the Predators to battle back and force the shootout speaks volumes about their effort and their compete level. Two bad plays bit the Predators, and against an opponent the caliber of the Canucks, that can- and did- cost the game.

I especially was impressed with the play of Sergei Kostitsyn. He battled hard all night, hustled, and his effort on a back check prevented a very good scoring chance for the Canucks.

Although the Predators failed to put away the Canucks, there are positives to take away from this game. The ability to battle back against a quality opponent like the Canucks speaks volumes about the heart and character of this team. This team believes in themselves and in their ability to win every game. That is evident by the way they refused to wilt in the face of the Canucks pressure and their early lead.

Limit the mistakes, the bad plays, and the Predators will not have an opponent slip past them.

My three stars:

1. Byron Bitz

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Roberto Luongo

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