Thursday, October 24, 2013

Predators Grind Out a 3-2 OT Win Over Winnipeg

The Nashville Predators learned today that they would be without the services of goaltender Pekka Rinne for at least 4 weeks as he is recovering from surgery to clear a bacterial infection from his surgically repaired hip.

This means that the work load over the next month will fall on back up Carter Hutton.

Hutton got started well with a 3-2 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena.

The first period opened with the Jets in control of the puck and the game, and Hutton made some good saves to keep the Jets off the board. The Jets dominated so totally in the first half of the opening period that the Predators didn't record their first shot on goal until 10:48 had elapsed.

The Predators got their legs going and began to claw back into the game in the second half of the period, and finally broke through on the power play at 15:53. Shea Weber blasted a puck from the high slot over the shoulder of Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec off a pass from David Legwand to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. This was Weber's third goal of the season.

Shots were 10-9 in favor of Nashville at the end of the first period.

The Jets tied the game at 1 at 13:49 of the second period when Anthony Peluso took the puck behind the net and wrapped it around and tucked it in just over the goal line. Hutton sprawled across the goal line and got his stick on the puck and it appeared that he made the save. The play was reviewed, and the replay showed that it did cross the goal line.

The second period ended tied at 1. Winnipeg out shot Nashville 14-9 in the period, and once again, Hutton came up with some quality saves for the Predators.

In the third period, Pateic Hornqvist broke the tie at 6:04 when Pavelec kicked out a rebound of a Mike Fisher shot and Hornqvist controlled the puck just inside the face off circle. Hornqvist ripped a shot over the shoulder of Pavelec for his fourth goal of the season to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

The Jets tied it at 2 at 16:59 as Hutton gave up a rebound off his pads that landed on the tape of Blake Wheeler. Wheeler was completely alone on the right side of the net and he banged home an uncontested shot as Hutton had not recovered to get back in position.

Regulation ended with the score tied at 2. Nashville had a 12-11 shot advantage in the third period.

In the overtime period, the Predators controlled play and fired shots at Pavelec. Unfortunately, most missed the net. That changed at 4:43 of overtime when Craig Smith took a pass from David Legwand and blew a shot short side over the shoulder of Pavelec to give the Predators their second win over the Jets in as many games.

Some observations:

  • The Predators welcomed Mike Fisher back into the line up. Fisher had missed 4 games with a fractured foot. Fisher showed no signs of rust and played 17:30 and picked up an assist.

  • Craig Smith continues his strong play. Smith used his speed and puck handling skills to create scoring chances and his shot to win the game was a rocket. Smith had four shots on goal and has shown that he can be one of the most offensively creative and dangerous players on the ice.

  • Matt Cullen took a puck to the face in the first period. He dropped to the ice and play was stopped as trainers helped him to the bench. After getting some attention on the bench, Cullen returned to the game and did not miss a shift.

  • Carter Hutton has shown that he can carry the team when needed. In the first period, the Jets had territorial dominance to open the game. They fired 7 shots on Hutton and he made some good saves. Hutton has good rebound control and rarely leaves a rebound in prime scoring position. The Wheeler goal came off a rebound that caught the Predators defense rotated to one side of the ice, leaving the Jets forward alone at the side of the net. Hutton will be tested in coming games, but his efforts against the Jets show that he is calm and poised in the net, moves well, and has good positioning on shots he faces.

  • There were times where the Predators forwards created some good scoring chances, and there were times where they were just grinding in the offensive zone. The line of Cullen, Smith, and Gabriel Bourque has been the Predators best offensive line, and the Predators need more consistency in the offensive zone out of their other lines.

  • Speaking of Bourque, it would be good to see him get his offensive game going. I like his hustle and effort, but he needs to find the back of the net.

  • I love the way Patric Hornqvist plays. He brings it every night. His hustle and fire set the tone for the team. Some of the other forwards need to follow more closely his style of play.

  • Viktor Stalberg was a healthy scratch. The Predators really need Stalberg to get his game going.
The Predators are now 6-4-1 and will play another divisional rival in St. Louis on Saturday night at the Bridge. This will be a tough test and a good measuring stick for this team.

Time for the boys to step up.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Carter Hutton

3. Patric Hornqvist

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