Saturday, March 31, 2012

Predators Hand the Hawks a 5-4 Victory

The Chicago Blackhawks visited the Bridgestone Arena looking for their first regulation win against the Nashville Predators.

They got it courtesy of some sloppy play by the Predators.

Chicago won the game 5-4 in a wild contest that saw the Hawks jump out to a 4-0 lead only to see the Predators claw their way back and tie the game at 4 in the third period.

Some observations from the game:

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and he was victimized by the play of the defense in front of him. The Hawks scored the first goal of the game when a centering pass across the top of the crease went off the skate of Hal Gill and past Rinne with the Hawks on the power play.

Chicago had a lead of 1-0 at the end of the first period. The Predators would open the second period a man down as David Legwand was in the box for hooking. The Hawks tallied again on the power play as the Predators defense lost Dave Bolland. Bolland was left alone to take a pass from Marian Hossa and his one timer gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.

Patrick Kane beat Francis Buillon down the ice and beat Rinne five hole on a breakaway. Another defensive breakdown and another Hawks goal.

Viktor Stalberg once again beat Buillon down the ice and scored off the rebound of his shot to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead.

At this point, the wheels had come off for the Predators and it looked like the Hawks were going to exact a measure of revenge for the 6-1 drubbing the Predators had put on the Hawks in their last meeting.

Up to this point, the Predators had not been able to rattle Corey Crawford, although their had been a good deal of traffic and activity by the Predators in front of Crawford. Crawford even got some punches in on Paul Gaustad when he was checked into Crawford in the first period. Crawford still looked in control, and the Predators were having a difficult time solving him.

That changed when the Predators kept firing pucks at the net and getting traffic in front of Crawford.

The Predators made it 4-1 at 9:29 of the second period when Marty Erat tallied on the power play. It was a simple play, as Erat took a shot from the slot with traffic in front and the screened Crawford never saw the shot.

Just under a minute later, Shea Weber notched the first of his two goals on the night with a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Crawford. Once again, there was traffic in front and Crawford could not pick up the puck.

In the third period, the Predators pulled within one as Alexander Radulov split Brent Seabrook and Sean O'Donnell and beat Crawford with a sweet backhand move at 4:38.

Shea Weber tied the game on the power play at 7:19 of the third with a blast from the blue line that Crawford never saw. Patric Hornqvist was screening in front and did a great job of taking away Crawford's eyes on the play.

Tied at 4, this was a game the Predators could take. Crawford and more than a few of the Hawks had a deer in the headlights look. Now the Predators needed to score that next goal.

Instead, it was the Hawks that tallied when Brent Seabrook scored to give the Hawks the final margin of victory. On the play, David Legwand got beat coming back and Seabrook took a nice pass from Andrew Shaw and beat Rinne with a one timer.

The Hawks are too good of a team to spot 4 goals. The fact that the Predators fought back and had a chance to win the game speaks volumes about their heart, but their play through the first 30 minutes of the contest caused them to expend an enormous amount of energy getting back into the game.

Their undisciplined play, taking 5 penalties and giving up 2 power play goals certainly did not help the effort.

The game winning goal was particularly galling. Legwand did not hustle back and left Seabrook open for the game winner. For a veteran, this play by Legwand was extremely disappointing.

The Predators finished the season series with the Hawks at 4-1-1. With 98 points, they sit one point in front of Detroit and Chicago, who tied the Detroit Red Wings with this win.

This game proved that the Predators can come back against any team. It also proved that they cannot play loose in the defensive zone and expect to win any game.

The Predators have 3 games remaining, and those 6 points are going to be important for the final seeding in the West. The Predators have to go out and capture those points.

And not hand any games to their opponents.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Brent Seabrook

3. Ryan Suter

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