The Vancouver Canucks rolled into Bridgestone Arena and rolled over the Nashville Predators 5-2. It was not without a fight, literally and figuratively.
The Predators competed well as the mix and match lines of call ups and regulars brought a good effort, out shooting the Canucks 38-24, but once again, the inability to finish haunted the Predators.
After falling behind 2-0 after one period on goals by Ryan Kessler and Derek Roy, the Predators fought back in the second period to tie the game. Sergei Kostitsyn set up the first goal by controlling the puck behind the Vancover net. He found Nick Spaling in the low slot, and Spals one timer beat Roberto Luongo over his glove to make it 2-1.
The Predators tied the game at 2 as Bobby Butler drove to the face off circle and rifled a shot that beat Luongo to the far post.
The Canucks took a 3-2 lead after a brutal roughing call against Hal Gill. Alex Burrows slashed Gill at least 6 times with no call, but Gill was called for the penalty after taking Biting Burrows to the ice at the side of the Predators net.
Vancouver scored almost immediately on the power play as Jason Garrison notched a goal just 6 seconds into the man advantage.
The Canucks added 2 goals in the third period to make it 5-2 before the officials (Dan O'Halloran and Mike Leggo) lost control of the game with 3 minutes left. After a brawl that saw players on both sides ejected with game misconducts, the clock ran out and the Predators skid continued.
The Predators poured 19 shots on Luongo in the second period and had 14 more shots than the Canucks for the game. That is the positive. The negative is that they could not finish their chances, and part of this is that the Predators need more traffic in front of the net. At times, they did this, but too often, a presence in front of the net was missing. Shots from the point were mostly handled by Luongo, and the Predators need to do a better job of taking away the clean looks that opposing netminders are getting.
Bang For The Buck
Outside of Rich Clune, the Predators need someone that can bang and hit and be an overall shift disturber. Daniel Bang has shown flashes of being able to be that physical presence. He is a big body and doesn't seem to mind the contact. As he settles in, the hope is that he will become more of a physical presence.
Butler Starts to Shine
Bobby Butler has the tools, but he needs to consistently apply his talent. over the past few games, he has begun to play with confidence, battling for the puck, using his speed, and he has a deceptively good shot that we saw tonight. If Butler can continue to elevate his game, he is going to make a strong case to stay on the roster next season.
I liked the response of Shea Weber to the cross check on Rinne. The Canucks are notorious for the cheap and borderline dirty play, and the way you stop it is the way Webs responded. Swift, sure, and certain. Touch our goalie in a cheap way like the Canucks did and pay the price. A character move by the Captain.
The Predators will get no sympathy form the teams that remain on the schedule, and Predator fans are going to endure a rough and dismal stretch as injuries have decimated this team. But what you want to see is a strong compete level and a response to adversity. You want to see the call ups step up and contribute in all situations. They have been doing that, and although there is a significant talent gap for the Predators, one cannot fault the effort.
This is what this team can build upon for next season.
Character forged in difficult circumstances.
My three stars:
1. Ryan Kessler
2. Roberto Luongo