Sunday, February 3, 2013

Predators Bite the Sharks in a 2-1 SO Win

The Nashville Predators continue their lengthy West coast road trip with a visit to the Shark Tank to take on the undefeated San Jose Sharks. The Predators are looking to build on their momentum from their shootout win on Thursday night against the L.A. Kings, while the Sharks are looking to continue their torrid pace lead by veteran Patrick Marleau, who has led the Sharks to a 7-0 record. The Predators enter with a record of 2-2-3.

The task for the Predators was going to be more difficult as they would be without the services of Marty Erat, who took a shot off the foot in practice and was out of the line up due to swelling. The Predators were already without Patric Hornqvist, who has been lost for 3-4 weeks with a knee injury.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net while the Sharks went with Antii Niemi.

Les than a minute in the contest, Brandon Yip was called for holding, and the potent Sharks power play was going to test the Predators PK. Fortunately, the Predators PK unit did their job.

The Predators had a subsequent power play, and although they did not score, they had good puck possession and created some chances.

The first period ended scoreless, but the Predators had good jump and were skating hard. The shots on goal were 8-6 in favor of the Sharks. The Predators would open the second period on the power play and would have 1:50 of power play time.

The forecheck and the effort by the team in the first period was the best it had been all season. The Predators needed to build on this momentum for the second period.

The concern for the Predators was the health of Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn was hammered on a check and left midway of the first period. He was bleeding from a cut on the bridge of his nose, and hopefully he was just getting that cut repaired and not dealing with a more serious injury.

Kostitsyn did return for the second period for the Predators.

The Predators were the beneficiaries of two power play opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the second period but could not take advantage. By the same token, the Predators PK was effective in killing off the Sharks man advantage.

The Sharks nearly cracked the scoreboard at 10:17 of the second on the power play as a shot trickled through the pads of Rinne but hit the post. He did not know the puck was in the blue paint and Martin Havlat had a chance to tap the puck in the net but skated past it in celebration as he thought the puck had gone in the net. The Predators defense swarmed the crease and safely tucked the puck under Rinne.

The second 20 minutes was scoreless, but both teams moved the puck and created some chances. Shots were 11-7 for the Sharks.

The Predators continued to skate hard and the forecheck looked like the Predators forecheck that had been missing in many of the games this season. The Predators needed to continue this effort in the third period.

The Predators would get on the scoreboard first just 59 seconds into the third period as Colin Wilson worked hard to get control of the puck off the boards in the Sharks zone. He slid the puck to Sergei Kostitsyn who let go a quick wrist shot that beat Niemi glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead and notch his first goal of the year.

The Predators continued to put pressure on the Sharks in their zone and generated some good scoring chances. Their offensive zone presence and stout pressure in the neutral zone was not allowing the Sharks to get speed through the neutral zone and prevented them from getting the offensive zone cleanly.

The Sharks tied the game on the power play as the Predators were called for too many men on the ice. The puck took a funny bounce off the end boards and careened to Martin Havlat who backhanded the puck past Rinne to tie the game at 13:39.

The Predators had flirted with trouble by taking penalties, but had been successful in the kill until this point. The Sharks have a potent offense and on the power play are deadly. This penalty was the one that finally cost the Predators. 

The remainder of the period was scoreless, but the Sharks nearly tallied a second goal in a furious goal mouth scramble.

So once again, the Predators were heading to overtime for the fifth time this season.

The Sharks had some good pressure early in the overtime period, but the Predators had a good response. David Legwand nearly ended the game on a drive to the net but Niemi made a great toe save on his backhand attempt.

The Predators got a power play as Martin Havlat got a hooking call at 2:48 of the extra period. The Predators threw shots at the net but couldn't get a puck past Niemi, and once again, the Predators were heading to the shootout.

The Predators were 1-3 on shootouts this year.

In the shootout, the Sharks elected to shoot first.

Rinne stopped Michael Handzus and Niemi stopped David Legwand in the first round.

In the second round, Rinne stoned Ryan Clowe while Craig Smith deked Niemi and roofed a backhand shot for the score.

Rinne sealed the Predators win in the third round as his glove hand swallowed up the wrist shot from Joe Pavelski.

Down two key forwards and playing against a team that had not previously suffered a loss, the Predators gave their best effort of the season. Tonight, the Predators looked like the Predators team that we have come to expect: relentlessly forechecking; getting pucks to the net; and a solid effort for 60, uh, 65 minutes.

This is the type of win the team can build upon. They won against one of the best teams in the NHL with character, grit and effort.

Keep it going, boys.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Sergei Kostitsyn

3. Craig Smith

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