The Nashville Predators faced the Colorado Avalanche for the third and final time this season and for the first time on their home ice.
It was a game the Predators needed badly to keep their playoff hopes alive. A win would also keep the Avs from sweeping the season series with the Predators.
The Predators prevailed 3-1 in a contest that was anything but easy.
Pekka Rinne dueled with J.S. Giguere, and for the first 40 minutes of the contest, both goalies were perfect.
The third period saw an avalanche (sorry, I couldn't resist) of goals, with the Avs getting on the board first just 1:01 into the period. Matt Duchene took a puck at his own blue line and raced past the Predators defense that was attacking in the offensive zone. Duchene buried the breakaway attempt, beating Rinne low glove side to give the Avalanche the lead at 1-0.
The Predators power play had been struggling, going 0 for their previous 15 attempts. That changed when the Avs Brad Malone was called for high sticking at 8:01 of the third. Shea Weber fired the puck toward the net with Taylor Beck and Patric Hornqvist in front. The Predators got the puck past Giguere, but the goal was reviewed because it looked as if Beck had kicked the puck in the net. The review showed that the puck had gone off Beck's skate and Hornqvist got his stick on the puck to poke it past Giguere and tie the game at 1.
The Predators took a 2-1 lead as David Legwand out muscled Matt Duchene behind the net and got the puck out front for a shot. Giguere made the save but Legwand got the rebound and shot the puck between the pads of Giguere at 18:46 for his 10th goal of the season.
Paul Gaustad got an empty net goal at 19:45 to make it 3-1 and seal the win for the Predators.
Paul Gaustad logged 20:49 of ice time, the most of any forward. He played some tough minutes and was a stellar 10 of 24 in the face off circle. Goose is logging critical minutes in all situations, is defensively responsible, and his effort in the face off circle allowed the Predators to control the puck, often in the defensive zone. Goose will never light up the scoreboard, but his contributions go far beyond scoring goals.
This Is What We Need To See...
Out of David Legwand. His goal came from out working Matt Duchene for the puck and making a strong move to the net. Legwand has the ability to contribute more offensively, and with the injuries the Predators have suffered, Legwand has to bring this kind of effort in the remaining games. Hopefully, Legwand builds on this effort and can continue to contribute offensively.
Gotta Have More
Craig Smith had no shots on goal. Sergei Kostitsyn had one. Marty Erat had three, but passed up some shots. The players have offensive ability, and it is going to be important for them to get on the score sheet. It would benefit the Predators greatly if these guys could develop a scorer's mentality and touch.
The MASH Unit Gets Larger
The Predators have been without the services of Colin Wilson for some time. Mike Fisher missed his third consecutive game. Tonight, Gabriel Bourque was out of the line up with an upper body injury suffered in last night's game with the Blackhawks. I am not sure that we will see Wilson before the regular season is over, but it will greatly bolster the Predators chances if they can get Fisher and Bourque back quickly.
At Your Beck And Call
Taylor Beck had two assists tonight, and has 6 points in his last six games. Beck's game is using his big body to get in front of the net and create havoc (his spin-o-rama to the net tonight notwithstanding). He has contributed some solid minutes and some valuable points, and as his game matures will hopefully become a bigger contributor.
The Predators sit in 9th place with 38 points and a 15-14-8 record. 8th place St. Louis also has 38 points, but has two games in hand. With 12 games remaining, I think the Predators are going to have to win at least 9 to get into the playoffs.
Can they do it?
It is a monumental task, but if this team brings the effort like they did tonight, there is a chance. The Predators fired 38 shots on goal and continued to pressure the Avs in their zone. They have to have that kind of effort over the next 12 games.
The challenge is there.
We will find out if this team is up to it.
My three stars:
1. Patric Hornqvist
2. David Legwand
3. Taylor Beck