The Nashville Predators have struggled to generate offense so far this young season. Their task is to get shots on net and quality scoring chances, to get back to playing Predator hockey. A game built on grit, speed, and effort.
That task was going to be made more difficult as they faced the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Kings were going with Jonathan Quick.
The Predators got the start they wanted as just 58 seconds into the game David Legwand won a face off in the Kings zone and the puck came to Brandon Yip at the top of the face off circle. Yip loaded up the shot and beat Quick high glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
The Predators gave the Kings a golden opportunity to tie the game. Scott Hannan was called for interference at 11:10 of the period. One minute later, Paul Gaustad was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct for chirping the officials. The Kings had 1 minute of 5 on 3 power play time, which they immediately short circuited by taking a tripping penalty off the face off, resulting in a minute of 4 on 3 hockey and the Kings with the advantage.
The Kings made the Predators pay for their transgression just as Hannan's penalty was about to expire. Mike Richards shot the puck over the net and it rebounded right in front of the net. Hal Gill did not see the puck and Dustin Brown pounced on the loose puck at the top of the crease and hammered it past a defenseless Rinne to tie the game at 13:08 of the period.
The Predators continued to tempt fate as Hal Gill was called for cross checking, the fourth penalty that the Predators took in the period. The Predators were able to kill the penalty, but would open the second a man down for another 32 seconds. That is until Dustin Brown took a penalty at the 20 minute mark for interference.
The Predators skated better in this opening frame than they have in their past few games.The undisciplined play of the team gave the Kings the opportunity to out shoot the Predators 10-3 and disrupted any offensive flow the Predators tried to establish. The Predators were going to have to play a more disciplined game and stay out of the box to be successful. The potent Kings offense did not need help with the man advantage.
Scott Hannan continued to get familiar with the officials in the penalty box as he took his third penalty of the game for tripping at 3:05 of the second period. Fortunately, the Predators were able to kill off the penalty.
The second period was scoreless. The Predators power play was ineffective, and even though the shots were 5 apiece in the period, the Kings had the territorial advantage for much of the period. Through two periods, the Predators offense continued to struggle, mustering just 8 total shots on goal.
The same sad song.
If the Predators were going to have a chance, they were going to have to commit to getting the puck onnet and create some havoc in front of Quick. So far, they had failed to do that.
The third period started to open up with both teams moving the puck up and creating some chances. The Predators had a chance to take the lead with Quick caught out of position but the Predators unable to corral a bouncing puck at the side of the net. Rinne made a huge stop as the Kings converted a turnover and Jeff Carter got loose in front of the net.
The Kings pressed late in the third period, but the Predators were able to keep them off the board. Neither team could find the back of the net, so the game was going to overtime.
The Kings out shot the Predators 22-11, and the Predators failed to register a shot on goal over the final 10 minutes of the period.
It would be an understatement to say that the Predators stole a point in this game.
The Predators created some great scoring chances in the overtime period off their effort down low in the Kings zone. Ryan Ellis had a good scoring chance but could not bury it and Sergei Kostitsyn could not put home a rebound.
The Predators kept up the effort and the forecheck and showed their best offensive zone possession of the game, but could not get the puck in the net. So for the fourth time this season, the Predators were heading to the shootout.
In the first round, Pekka Rinne stopped Jeff Carter. David Legwand beat Quick to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
In the second round, Mike Richards beat Rinne five hole. Craig Smith fired a shot that hit Quick's pads and bounced in the goal. to restore the Predators lead.
In the third round, Dustin Brown beat Rinne with a great fake. to tie the shootout. Marty Erat missed the net on his attempt.
The fourth round saw Drew Doughty miss the net. Colin Wilson had a chance to end the game, and was missed off the backhand.
The Kings had Jarrett Stoll shoot in the fifth round and Rinne was able to stop the shot with his left pad. Brandon Yip hit the side of the net.
Anze Kopitar gave the Kings the lead as he beat Rinne stick side. Gabriel Bourque had to score in the sixth round and he made a sweet move and beat Quick off his backhand just under the crossbar.
Rinne stopped Justin Williams as he got enough of the shot and it trickled wide. Roman Josi fired wide on his attempt.
In the eighth round, Simon Gagne was stopped by the pad of Rinne. Sergei Kostitsyn faked Quick to the ice and beat Quick to the far post for the win.
Although there were stretches where the Predators were outplayed by the Kings, this game was a different game for this team. They did not cave under pressure and played with some heart, qualities that had been lacking in some of their previous games.
This is the kind of effort that, while far from true Predator hockey, showed flashes of what this team can do.
It is time to build on that effort, boys.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Brandon Yip
3. Sergei Kostitsyn