Thursday, January 16, 2014

Predators End the Futility, Finish the Flyers in a Shootout

The Nashville Predators traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers and were looking to build on a solid win from their previous game. For the Predators, consistency and a quick start were essential to capturing a road win against a hot Flyers team.

It was the Flyers that got the quick start as they tallied just 1:28 into the game as Brayden Schenn tapped in a puck laying at the side of the net. Predators netminder Carter Hutton had traffic in front on him and was fighting to find the puck when Schenn gathered in the loose puck and banged it home for the first goal of the game.

The Predators answered with a similar goal at 10:57 of the first period. Gabriel Bourque came off the wall and fired the puck toward the front of the net, where it met the skate of Eric Nystom, who was driving hard to the blue paint. The puck caromed off Nystrom's skate past Flyers goaltender Steve Mason to knot the game at 1.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead at 16:35 of the period. The Predators were on the power play when Mike Fisher threaded a pass through the slot to David Legwand, who buried the puck past a sprawling Mason.

The second period loosened up a bit and the game became an end to end contest.

The Flyers nearly tied the game as a dump in was misplayed behind the net by Hutton. The puck bounced off his stick on to the tape of Michael Raffl, who had an open net into which to shoot the puck. David Legwand tripped Raffl on the backcheck, which affected his shot, but Hutton dove out from behind the net and made a remarkable glove save to keep the Flyers off the board.

Hutton would give up the tying goal with just 3.6 seconds left in the period as Andrej Meszaros took a drop pass from Wayne Simmonds and whipped a shot over the shoulder stick side.

This was the kind of goal that could deflate a team, so it would be interesting to see how the Predators responded in the third period.

The Flyers Niklas Grossman was called for a double minor for high sticking Patric Hornqvist, and on the ensuing power play Shea Weber, much to the chagrin of Philly fans who lust after the stud defenseman, gunned a slap shot from the blue line to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 5:10.

The Predators would continue on the power play and Craig Smith had a glorious chance on a breakaway that was stopped by Mason.

The Predators tempted fate by taking a late penalty as Mike Fisher was called for slashing and the Flyers made the Predators pay. Wayne Simmonds was parked in front of the net and he was able to re-direct a shot past Hutton at 18:36. On the play, Mason was pulled and it was a 6 on 4 advantage for the Flyers.

That late goal caused the game to go to overtime, where the Predators had not had much success this season. The Predators were 1-7 in OT sessions this season.

Neither team could score in the overtime, although the Flyers Matt Read rang a shot off the post that nearly trickled into the net before Carter Hutton smothered the puck.

It's deja vu all over again, as the teams were heading to a shootout, just like in their first meeting in Nashville.

For the first time this season, the Predators won a shootout.

The futility in the skills competition was finally over!

The shootout went seven rounds with Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi scoring the game winner.

Some observations:

  • Carter Hutton played a solid game and came up with some very good saves. He was able to track the puck well through traffic and gave up few rebounds. Hutton has had two good outings, and hopefully he can build on this and get his mojo going.

  • In the shootout, the Predators surprisingly went to Seth Jones as the third shooter. He missed the net on his shot.

  • The Predators power play was efficient scoring on 2 of 4 opportunities including one goal on a 4 minute double minor. The power play units have been moving the puck better of late, forcing the defense to move more and opening up shooting lanes.

  • The Predators continue to put pucks on the net. They out shot the flyers 37-30 and this is what this team has to do to have an opportunity to win games.

  • With the win, the Predators get back to .500 at 21-21-7, good for 49 points and 6 points out of the final playoff spot.

  • New acquisition Devan Dubnyk was on the bench as the back up goalie.

The Predators continue to fight and claw to try to get back into the playoff race.

Essential for this team to do that will be to build consistency and avoid the losing streaks that have derailed momentum during this season.

These past two wins are a good place to start doing just that.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Shea Weber

3. Wayne Simmonds

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