Thursday, December 19, 2013

Predators Sloppy Play Leads to Loss to the Lightning

The Nashville Predators took to the road to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to get back in the win column. The Predators needed a solid start to gain momentum and take the home crowd out of the game. The Lightning had lost only 3 times on home ice and the Predators could not afford to fall behind early.

The Lightning thwarted that goal just 2:25 into the game as Alex Killorn carried the puck into the offensive zone and eluded Nick Spaling, who had fallen on the play. The defense did not pick up Killorn and he used Seth Jones to screen Carter Hutton and beat him with a quick wrist shot to make it 1-0.

The Lightning more jump and speed than the Predators and controlled play though most of the first period. The Predators finally got their legs going and began to challenge the Lightning but could not find the back of the net.

The Lightning extended their lead to 2-0 at 19:06 of the first period on the power play. Marty St. Louis was alone in the high slot and unleashed a rocket that deflected off the stick of Mike Fisher and over the shoulder of Hutton.

This was not the start the Predators needed as they spent most of the period chasing the Lightning. Hutton was forced to make some big saves to keep the Lightning off the board, including a point blank shot from St. Louis who was alone in front of the net after a turnover in the defensive zone.

Shots were 11-8 for the Lightning.

The Predators got on the board at 6:36 of the second period just as a Predators power play had just ended. Matt Cullen took a shot from the face off circle that was kicked out into traffic by the skate of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas. Craig Smith gathered in the rebound and fired the puck past Lindback to the glove side for his 7th goal of the year.

The Lightning answered the Predators score at 8:27 of the second as Valtteri Filppula found Teddy Purcell with a cross ice pass. Purcell's shot beat Hutton five hole to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead. The goal was set up by the speed of the Lightning into the Predators zone. If the Predators could not find a way to slow down the rush of the Lightning, this would be a long night.

The Predators tallied again on the power play as Matt Cullen found Craig Smith in the low slot with a backhand pass from behind the net. Smith popped a quick wrist shot past Lindback to make it 3-2 at 13:02.

The Predators allowed the Lightning to regain a 2 goal lead just 49 seconds later as Richard Panik deflected a Eric Brewer shot under the arm of Hutton to make it 4-2.

Hutton had given up 4 goals on 14 shots and that would be it for his night as Marek Mazanec came to tend goal.

The second period would end with the Lightning leading 4-2 and the Predators unable to keep the Bolts off the board when they drew close.

The Predators had a better offensive effort in the second period and out shot the Lightning 13-7.

Needing an energetic third period to get back into the game, the Predators came out flat. The Lightning once again used their speed to control the play and keep the puck from the Predators. Through the first 13 minutes of the period, the Lightning out shot the Predators 12-3 as the Preds offensive effort was non-existent.

The Predators pulled Mazanec with 2:43 remaining in the game for the extra attacker but struggled to get shots on net as the Lightning defenders swarmed the Predators in the offensive zone. The Predators could not capitalize with the man advantage and dropped their second game in a row by a 4-2 margin.

Some observations:

  • The Predators scratched Colin Wilson tonight. No word if he is injured or ill.

  • The Lightning welcomed back towering defenseman Victor Hedman, who had missed 6 games due to injury, and he played a strong game. He made several outlet passes that set up scoring chances for the Lightning.

  • The Predators took most of the first period to get their game going. By then, they were down two goals. The second period was a strong period by the Predators, but there was no response in the third period. The Predators looked a step slow during these lapses and the Lightning used their speed to exploit the Predators, setting up some good scoring chances. This team is not good enough to take time off during a game and have a chance to win.

  • Hutton did not look sharp on the goals allowed. he got pieces of most of the shots, but the Lightning were able to beat him five hole and under the arm on 3 of the 4 goals he allowed.

  • Craig Smith had a strong game. he has great hands and the ability to handle the puck in traffic. His goals tonight were evidence of that skill set. He has great chemistry with Matt Cullen, and I hope that we don't see Smith as a healthy scratch any time soon. This team desperately needs offense, and he needs to be in the line up.

  • Mazanec looked good in relief, stopping 19 shots.
This was a sloppy effort by the Predators. Especially disappointing was the inability to keep the Lightning off the board when the Predators cut the lead to one goal. This is a matter of discipline and focus.

And it has to improve.

My three stars:

1. Alex Killorn

2. Craig Smith

3. Anders Lindback

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