The Kings have used their size and skill to push around the Predators in previous contests. Tonight, the Predators matched the Kings physical play and created numerous scoring chances.
Matt Cullen scored his first goal as a Predator at 10:33 of the first period. Gabriel Bourque went hard to the net and fired a shot off the pads of Kings netminder Jonathan Quick. In the scramble in front of the net, the puck bounced to Cullen and he roofed a wrist shot over the sprawling Quick to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
The Kings tied the game at 19:19 of the first period as Mike Richards controlled the puck in a crowd and skated to the left face off dot. He froze Pekka Rinne, who had to respect his shot. Richards whipped a cross ice pass on to the tape of Slava Voynov, who ripped a shot that Rinne got a piece of but couldn't stop to tie the game a 1.
Shots were 15-15 after one period.
The remainder of the game saw both teams with offensive pushes that were turned back by both netminders. In the second period, the Predators out shot the Kings 11-5 but could not solve Quick. Both teams had stretches where they controlled the puck in the offensive zone but could not score. Rinne and Quick were sharp and both made some very good saves to preserve the tie.
In the overtime period, the Predators got two minutes of man advantage as the Kings Alec Martinez was called for high sticking. With the 4 on three power play, the Predators could only muster two shots. The best scoring chance of the overtime came with the Kings short handed. Ryan Ellis turned the puck over at the blue line and Rinne made a spectacular save on a Mike Richards breakaway.
The Predators sent Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Cullen out for the shoot out. Forsberg had Quick beaten with a backhand, but shot the puck wide of the net.
Rinne stopped Mike Richards and Jeff Carter before Anze Kopitar beat him with a backhand over the shoulder to win the game.
The Predators finished their five game home stand with a 3-2 mark.
- The line of Cullen, Smith, and Bourque was the best line tonight. They skated well and created some good scoring chances. This line is beginning to show some good chemistry, and if they can get rolling consistently, it will give the Predators some much needed offensive punch.
- I continue to like the Predators compete level. In times past, this team would have gotten back on their heels when facing a team that is physical and skates well. Tonight, they took the attack to the Kings. They out shot the visitors 35-30 and matched their physical play. The second period, which has often been the bane of the Predators, saw the home team dominate the Kings.
- I was impressed with the play of Filip Forsberg. He handled well the physical play of the Kings and showed some amazing hands and ability to work open for scoring chances.
- Viktor Stalberg needs to show up. Tonight, he was moved to the fourth line and played only 10:09, the least amount of ice time by any Predator. He registered no shots on net. I don't know if his injured shoulder continues to bother him, but this is certainly not the kind of play the Predators need out of him.
- With Stalberg on the fourth line, Eric Nystrom was moved up to a line with David Legwand and Filip Forsberg. I like Nystrom's play on that line as he brings grit and energy to a line that has two play makers (and yes, I am being generous to include Legwand in that description).
- Pekka Rinne made some very good saves, especially tracking the puck through traffic. Rinne shows no ill effects of his off season hip surgery.
- The Predators PK was excellent, killing off all four of the Kings power plays. As good as the PK was, the power play was horrid. Especially in overtime with a 4 on 3 advantage, the Predators could only get off two shots. The Predators often had trouble getting the puck in the zone and when they did, there was not much movement. The Predators made it too easy for the Kings to defend, and this has to improve and get more consistent.
The Predators will now embark on a three game road trip. The team is looking for their first road win and they need to pick up some points on this road swing. This will be a good test for this team, and hopefully they will continue to gel and compete at the level the do on home ice.
My three stars:
1. Jonathan Quick
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Anze Kopitar