Monday, January 21, 2013

Predators Pick Up a Point in 4-3 SO Loss to the Blues

For the second straight game, the Nashville Predators went to a shootout, and both times the results were the same as the Predators dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues.

Unlike the previous game with Columbus, the Predators played with more purpose. Like the previous game, there were stretches where the visiting Blues dominated puck possession and kept the Predators pinned in their own zone. Make no mistake, part of this is the fact that the Blues are a very talented team, but the fact that the Predators can be dominated as they were in their own zone is troubling.

In regulation, the Blues out shot the Predators 33-24. In the overtime period, the Predators could not muster a shot and were out shot 6-0.

The Predators opened the scoring at 9:10 of the first period as Colin Wilson took a pass from Patric Hornqvist and fired a shot from just inside the face off circle that beat Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak. Wilson was strong on the puck all night and played a very good game. In the two games of this young season, he has been the best skater for the Predators.

The Blues tied the game at 10:28 of the first period as rookie Vladamir Tarasenko fired a shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne for his third goal in two games. Tarasenko is a dynamic young player and a force for the Blues. He later added two assists on Blues goals to give him 5 points in two games.

The Blues took a 2-1 lead at 15:04 of the first as Andy McDonald tallied on the power play with David Legwand in the box for hooking. McDonald was able to roof the puck over an out of position Rinne for the Blues lead.

The Predators returned the favor on the power play at 17:13 of the first period as Mike Fisher took a nice cross ice feed from Marty Erat and beat Halak high stick side.

Although the Blues out shot the Predators 14-6 and had a decided territorial advantage in the first period, the opening frame ended tied at 2. Rinne made some good save to keep the Predators in the period as the Blues had a tremendous offensive zone time advantage.

The Predators were stronger on the puck in the second period, and although they were out shot 9-8, they tallied the only goal of the period on the power play. Patric Hornqvist got free down low and lifted a sharp angle backhand over the shoulder of Halak at 12:53 the give the Predators a 3-2 lead on only their 11th shot of the game. That was enough for Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock as he pulled Halak and inserted Brian Elliott in net.

That proved to be a wide coaching move by Hitch as Elliott would shut out the Predators the rest of the way.

Once again, the third period saw the Predators unable to hold a lead as the Blues tied the game at 12:10 of the third as Alex Pietrangelo was able to get the puck past Rinne.

Shots were 10-10 in the third period, but Rinne made some exceptional saves and the Predators hit the post on three occasions and couldn't finish their chances.

The Blues owned the overtime session as once again Rinne made some good saves to keep the Blues off the board. The Predators could not generate any offense and did not have a shot on goal in the extra session.

In the shootout, Craig Smith and Marty Erat were stopped by Elliott and T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen were able to beat Rinne to give the Blues the second point.

On the positive side, it was good to see Hornqvist and Fisher get on the score sheet. Hornqvist had a strong game and has been quietly effective. Colin Wilson had a solid game, skating well and was strong on the puck. Wilson has been the Predators best skater in the first two games and his game has matured nicely.

Troubling for the Predators is the way that the Blues were able to dominate in puck possession. There were stretches of the game where the Predators were fortunate to just get it out of their zone. Part of this is that the Blues are a very talented team. Part of this is that the Predators were sloppy with the puck. This has to improve for the Predators to get in the win column.

The other aspect of the Predators game that has to improve is the secondary scoring. Last year, the Predators were the beneficiaries of the third and fourth line contributing with timely scoring. So far, these lines have not had any offensive pop, and the Predators have to have these lines chipping in with some goals.

The Predators are in Minnesota tomorrow night, and this is another opportunity to continue to get their game back to Predator hockey. Some good strides were made tonight.

The progress has to continue.

My three stars:

1. Vladamir Tarasenko

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Colin Wilson

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