Friday, November 1, 2013

Predators Blow 3 Goal Lead, Fall in SO to the Coyotes

The Nashville Predators embarked on their longest road trip in team history- 7 games in 17 days and over 6,000 miles of travel- by facing the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena.

The Predators faced a big challenge in the Coyotes, who always play the Predators tough and are playing some very good hockey right now.

Unfortunately for the Predators, a game that started so well ended in a collapse that never should have happened.

Carter Hutton was in net for the Preds, while the Coyotes had Thomas Greiss in between the pipes.

The Coyotes opened the game with a ferocious forecheck, but credit the Predators for responding to the pressure and getting their legs going.

The Predators opened the scoring at the 11:00 of the first period as Matt Hendricks came off the bench on a change and David Legwand found him behind the defense with a cross ice pass. Hendricks ripped a shot from outside the face off circle that beat Greiss to the far post for a 1-0 lead.This was Hendricks first goal as a Predator.

The Predators made it 2-0 at 14:12 of the first period as Patric Hornqvist threw a puck at the front of the net. The puck deflected off Eric Nystrom and past Greiss. This was a prototypical Predator goal as the puck was sent to the front of the net with players crashing the net. For the Predators to have success, this was the style of hockey they needed to play.

The Predators had a 5 on 3 power play for just over a minute when David Legwand scored at 18:24 to make it 3-0.

A superb first period saw the Predators out shoot the Coyotes 11-5 and capitalize on their scoring chances. Again, this was the kind of start- and response- that the Predators needed against a very good team.

The challenge would be to continue this level of play over the next 40 minutes.

The Coyotes got in the board at 17:39 of the second period as Jordan Szwarz took a harmless shot at the net that Hutton misplayed. The puck slid under his glove and into the net to make it 3-1. Certainly not the type of goal that the Predators wanted to give up and hopefully it would not be a turning point for momentum in this game.

The Coyotes made it 3-2 at 10:09 as Derek Morris walked in from the blue line a ripped a shot past Hutton. The Coyotes D corps has some prolific scorers, but the Predators made it easy for the Coyotes as the defense had rotated to one side of the ice and Morris took advantage of an open lane to notch his 4th goal of the season.

The Predators needed an answer to the Coyotes push to swing momentum back to their side.

There was no answer by the Predators, but fortunately, they were able to hold off the pressure of the Coyotes for the remainder of the period.

The Predators out shot the Coyotes 8-6 in the second period, but there were stretches where the Coyotes had a decided territorial advantage.

The third period was shaping up to be a war, and the Predators were going to have to answer the inevitable push that the Coyotes would bring.

The Predators came out skating hard and putting pressure on the Coyotes. Nick Spaling put a shot on net from the boards that Greiss kicked out onto the stick of Paul Gaustad. Gaustad banged home the rebound at 15:45 to make it 4-2 Predators.

That was a huge goal for the Predators, not only to extend the lead back to 2, but also to take some of the momentum away from the Coyotes.

That regained momentum did not last long.

The Coyotes answered right back on the power play at 13:44 as Shane Doan hammered a shot from the right circle to make it 4-3.

The Coyotes tied the game at 11;43 as Antoine Vermette broke in on a breakaway and tucked the puck through the five hole of Hutton. The breakaway occurred as the Predators were trying to get a change and left the middle of the ice open for Vermette.

Neither team could get the winning goal in regulation, and after blowing a 3 goal first period lead, the Predators were now facing overtime.

David Legwand was called for holding early in the overtime period, and the Predators were going to have to rely on their penalty killers to salvage their chances.

And they did just that.

The Predators were able to survive the OT and now the second point would be claimed in the shootout.

In the first round of the shootout, Mike Ribeiro and Craig Smith were stopped. Radim Vrbata and Matt Cullen were stopped in the second round. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was stopped by Hutton and Mike Fisher hit the pipe. In the fourth round, David Rundblad and Gabriel Bourque were stopped by the netminders.

Mikael Boedker scored in the fifth round for the Coyotes and David Legwand was stoned by Greiss.

The Predators epic collapse was complete, dropping a 5-4 decision in overtime.

Some observations:

  • Hutton gave up a soft first goal to the Coyotes, but was generally sound in net. The goals he gave up after the first one were solid goals that the Coyotes worked for along with some defensive breakdowns that assisted their effort.
  • Mike Fisher didn't score, but played a very physical and competitive game. I liked his effort, and if he keeps up this level of play, he will find the back of the net.
  • The Predators lost Matt Hendricks after a clean hit by Derek Morris in the second period. He is called out with an upper body injury.
  • Viktor Stalberg was back in the line up. He showed good jump and saved a goal in the second period by sweeping a puck off the goal line. The Predators desperately need him to get his offensive game going.
This was a game that the Predators never should have lost. Yes, the Coyotes are an excellent team, but when you have a 3 goal lead, you have to lock down the other team. This game is evidence that this young team doesn't yet have a killer instinct.

They are going to have to develop one quickly.

My three stars:

1. David Legwand

2. Shane Doan

3. Keith Yandle

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