Friday, April 19, 2013

Hawks Heartbreaker; Predators Fall In OT

The Nashville Predators are not playing for a spot in the playoffs. They are playing for pride, and in some situations, a roster spot for next season.

So there is a lot still at stake for the Predators, and they had an opportunity to play for pride against the best team in the NHL in the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Hawks went with Corey Crawford.

The game opened with the Blackhawks flying and firing shots at Rinne. The Hawks opened the scoring on the power play as Brent Seabrook cruised down the slot and fired a wrist shot past Rinne.

The mix and match line up of the Predators responded to the opening salvo from the Hawks by scoring the next two goals in Predator fashion.

Kevin Klein pinched in from the blue line and fired a shot at the net that Crawford could not handle cleanly. Matt Halischuk was at the side of the net and was able to poke the puck past Crawford to tie the game at 1.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead as Booby Butler took a shot that Crawford could not control. New call up Kevin Henderson and Chris Mueller banged away at the puck and Henderson was able to shove it under the pads of Crawford to make it 2-1.

Two goals that were scored by going to the dirty areas and doing the hard work to score. Something that had been lacking from the Predators game recently.

The Hawks tied the game at 2 as Brandon Saad muffed a shot but got the puck back under control and beat Rinne glove side.

That was the way the first period ended. The Hawks out shot the Predators 15-8 in the period.

The Hawks made it 3-2 off a 2 on 1 break that began when Sergei Kostitsyn made an errant pass that resulted in Bryan Bickell breaking in with Patrick Kane. Kane was able to beat Rinne five hole for the go ahead score.

Matt Halischuk tied the game at 3 when Victor Bartley spotted Halischuk streaking through the neutral zone and hit him in stride with a beautiful pass. Halishcuk had his initial shot stopped by Crawford but got his rebound and banged the puck past Crawford. Kudos to Bartley for spotting Halischuk and hitting him with a great pass and to Halsichuk for staying with the play after his first shot was blocked.

The second period ended tied at 3 with the Hawks out shooting the Predators 12-9. Rinne made some big saves to keep the Predators in the game.

Perhaps more importantly, the Predators answered the Hawks goal and were playing with jump and determination. This is exactly what this squad has to do to stay in games and have a chance to win.

 The Predators made a gaffe that cost them a goal when Victor Bartley threw the puck to the middle and right onto the tape of Michael Handzus. Handzus ripped a shot from the slot top shelf to beat Rinne and give the Hawks a 4-3 lead.

The Predators once again answered as Shea Weber took a shot that caromed off bodies in front and came back to Bobby Butler, who made no mistake in burying the shot past Crawford to tie the game at 4.

Playing for pride and roster spots, the Predators kept fighting their way back into the game.

With 44 seconds left in the third, Rich Clune took a double minor for high sticking. The Predators were able to kill off the remaining time in regulation, but 51 seconds into the overtime, Marian Hossa scored the game winner to extend the Predators losing streak.

Some observations:

Henderson Helps

Kevin Henderson got his first NHL goal and played a strong game with lots of energy. The 26 year old is a big body and doesn't shy away from the physical game, and his effort in front helped the Predators notch their second goal of the game.

Butler Belongs

Bobby Butler is making a case to be on the roster next season. His game tying goal was a result of driving to the net and being in the right place at the right time. Butler needs to finish out strong to continue to make his case.

Good Jump

The Predators survived some strong pushes by the Hawks at various times during the game. More importantly, they did not quit and had the answer for every Hawks challenge in regulation. This effort is one that the team can use to build upon and should be a boost for their confidence.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that the injuries the Predators have suffered have affected their performance. It is not an excuse. Any player that puts on the sweater has to bring it when they step on the ice, and tonight, they did that. No one will feel sorry for them, so lace them up and play, boys. The effort tonight is what it takes to break out of this funk.

You have a few more chances to do that.

My three stars:

1. Marian Hossa

2. Matt Halsichuk

3. Duncan Keith

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