Saturday, December 21, 2013

Predators Slow Start Costs Them In OT Loss to the Habs

The Nashville Predators stumbled out of the gate at the Bridgestone Arena, falling behind 3-0 in the first period to the Montreal Canadiens and looking as if they were going to be embarrassed in front of the home crowd.

After waiting 20 minutes to begin playing hockey, the Predators clawed their way back into the contest, tying the game at 3 and forcing overtime.

How did we get there?

It was all Habs in the first period. P.K. Subban got loose in the high slot and blistered a shot past Marek Mazanec to make it 1-0 at 11:30 of the first period.

Max Pacioretty drove around Kevin Klein like he was anchored to the ice and beat Mazanec with a backhand at 13:20.

Tomas Plekanec re-directed a Brain Gionta shot at 14:37 to make it 3-0 Habs.

The Predators had given up only 5 shots to this point in the game. The problem was that the Canadiens had scored on 3 of those shots. That meant that Mazanec was done and Carter Hutton entered the game.

Hutton was solid in regulation, stopping all 17 shots he faced.

The Predators began to work and skate in the second period, and their efforts were rewarded as Gabriel Bourque to a pass from Matt Cullen and roofed a shot over Canadiens netminder Carey Price to make it 3-1 at 11:51 of the second.

Nick Spaling tallied on the power play at 18:09 of the second. Spaling was alone at the side of the net when he re-directed a slap pass from Shea Weber.

In the third period, the Predators tied the game at 3 on the power play as Shea Weber snuck into the low slot. Mike Fisher found him with a nice pass through the box and Weber buried a quick wrist shot at 13:40 of the third period.

The effort by the Predators over the final two periods of regulation was solid. They out shot the Canadiens 26-14, including a 20-6 shot advantage in the second period.

That effort was for naught, however, as in overtime Mattias Ekholm had the puck stripped away from him by David Desharnais in the defensive zone. Desharnais blew a shot from the face off circle past Hutton for the game winning goal on the Habs only shot in over time for the 4-3 victory.

Some observations:

  • Brutal. That is the only way to describe the outing by Mazanec. While the re-directed shot by Plekanec was unstoppable, Mazanec has to make the save on the first two goals he allowed. The stoppable goals that are allowed makes the hill that much steeper for this team, and the play of both Mazanec and Hutton has to be more consistent.

  • Brutal, part II. Ekholm cannot turn the puck over in the defensive zone. Desharnais is quick, but Ekholm just needed to use the boards and clear the puck out of the zone. He was guilty of over handling the puck, and it cost the team.

  • Seth Jones took a puck to the side of his face in the second period. A hard shot from the point hit a stick and ramped up and caught Jones. This didn't look good at all and he did not return to the game.

  • The power play has started to become more productive. There is more movement and players are getting into better shooting position. The power play needs to continue to score goals for the Predators to have success.

  • Five on five is another story. The Predators had some good scoring chances and could not finish. In the first period, Viktor Stalberg hit the post twice. Often, Predator forwards had good scoring chances and shot the puck into the logo on Price's sweater.

  • I liked the play of Viktor Stalberg. As mentioned, he created some scoring opportunities and hit the post twice. He showed good jump and puck possession all night. Say it with me... he has to finish.

  • The Predators are not good enough to take a period off. Coming out and playing poorly in the opening period created a huge hole from which the team had to overcome. This team has to play a full 60 minutes or more often than not, they will wind up on the short end of the score.
The Predators continue to struggle to find consistency. After winning three straight, they have now dropped three straight.

Realistically, this is a team that will not make the playoffs. Their goal now should be to improve their play in all phases of the game.

And try to be consistently better.

My three stars:

1. David Desharnais

2. Shea Weber

3. Carey Price

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