Saturday, March 24, 2012

Predators Ground the Jets 3-1

Late in the third period of the Nashville Predators game with the Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets at the Bridgestone Arena, numerous Thrashers sweaters were tossed from the stands onto the ice. Perhaps symbolically, it was jilted Thrashers fans shedding the last vestiges of their star crossed relationship with their team that was relocated to Winnipeg.

On the ice, the Predators were able to shed the scrappy Jets by a 3-1 margin.

The Predators were looking to end a two game losing streak, while the Jets were desperately clinging to a slim playoff hope and were looking to build on their comeback win against the Capitals the previous night.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Jets went went Ondrej Pavalec, who was the starter last night.

The first period was scoreless due to some great saves by Pavalec and Rinne, along with Kevin Klein of the Predators.

Kevin Klein?

Yes, the Predators defenseman came up with a great stop on Andrew Ladd with Rinne out of position after a collision. Rinne made a stop on a shot by Ladd, and was bumped as he was trying to get back into the crease. Klein went to one knee and was able to block the follow up shot by Ladd, who gathered in his rebound and had a yawning net in front of him.

The Predators did a good job all game of breaking the Jets trap and getting through the neutral zone. The first period saw them set up their offense and establish a good cycle, which created some good scoring chances. Pavalec made some great saves, including robbing Patric Hornqvist from the low slot and Gabriel Bourque with a good glove save.

Rinne was also strong and in control of his game, giving up few rebounds and tracking the puck through traffic.

This game was taking on the tenor of a game that would be decided by which team would make the first mistake.

That team would be the Jets.

In the second period, Alexander Radulov carried the puck through the neutral zone and hit Matt Halischuk in stride with a pass. Halischuk launched a slap shot from the face off circle that beat Pavalec over his glove to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:56 of the second period.

The Predators would extend that lead to 2-0 at 10:01 of the second as Gabriel Bourque gathered in a rebound of a Nick Spaling shot and backhanded the puck past Pavalec. Bourque continues to impress with his play, and his game continues to mature.

In the third period, the Jets made it very interesting when Tim Stapleton split Francis Buillon and Ryan Ellis and came down the low slot unmolested. He took a nice pass from Spencer Machecek and beat Rinne from close in with a quick wrist shot.

The Predators closed the game out at 19:50 of the third period and on the power play. The Predators won the face off and Weber fired the puck into the empty net from the center red line for the final tally and a 3-1 victory for the Predators.

The game tonight was a different game for the Predators. They were aggressive on the forecheck and established territorial advantage for much of the game. They out shot the Jets 28-25, and although the shot differential was not that great, the Predators did a good job of moving the puck and controlling the play.

On defense, the Predators forced the Jets to the outside for much of the night and limited quality scoring chances.Save for one defensive breakdown, this was a solid effort defensively by the Predators.

This is the kind of game they are going to have to play in the remainder of their regular season games, beginning tomorrow night in Chicago.

It was good to see the Predators get scoring from their third and fourth lines tonight. These lines have been absent from the score sheet recently, and for the Predators to be successful, they must have contributions from those players.

The Predators now have 94 points, good for 5th place in the West. They are one point behind 4th place Detroit and 2 points ahead of 6th place Chicago.

Think these remaining regular season games aren't important?

They start tomorrow.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Matt Halsichuk

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