Saturday, January 4, 2014

Predators Fall to the Panthers In A Shoot Out

The Nashville Predators continued with their three game road trip, making a stop in Sunrise to do battle with the Panthers. The Predators were looking to continue to amass points as they scramble to get back into the playoff race.

For the Predators, a good start and a full 60 minute game were critical.

The good start came courtesy of Craig Smith. Smith pounced on a loose puck at the top of the crease after a Nick Spaling shot and got the puck through traffic and between the pads of Panthers netminder Tim Thomas at 6:32 of the first period.

This was Smith's 12th goal of the season.

The Panthers tied the game at 11:03 of the first as Alexander Barkov took a shot that Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec got under his pads but did not have secured. Brad Boyes drove in and tapped the puck out from under Mazanec's pads and into the net to knot the game at 1.

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead as Mattias Ekholm attempted to carry the puck behind the Predators net. The puck bounced off Ekholm and then Marcel Goc right to Tomas Kopecky in front of the net. Kopecky had an easy tap in over the shoulder of Mazanec at 17:56.

The period ended with the Panthers holding the lead and shots even at 10.

The second period saw the Predators get shots but few quality scoring chances. That changed late in the period as Patric Hornqvist worked to keep the puck in the zone by battling on the boards. he got the puck to Colin Wilson who drove the net and slipped a drop pass through his legs to Mike Fisher. Fisher used the defense as a screen and buried a shot to the far side post at 16:32.

The Predators, as they have been prone to do too many times this season, allowed the Panthers to score quickly after their goal. Just 57 seconds later, Sean Bergenheim fanned on a shot at the side of the net. Alexander Barkov tapped the loose puck back to Bergenheim and he didn't miss on his second shot, beating Mazanec stick side for a 3-2 Panthers lead at 17:29. On the scoring play, the defensive coverage broke down and allowed the Panthers forwards too much room to maneuver uncontested in front of the net.

The second period ended with the Predators trailing 3-2, They had 12 shots on goal to 7 for the Panthers.

The Predators needed a strong push in the third period to get back in this game. That didn't happen as former Predator Marcel Goc victimized his old team with a goal just 1:34 into the period to make it 4-2 for the Panthers. Seth Jones turned the puck over to Jonathan Huberdeau  behind the net and he found Goc alone in front for the score.

Defensive lapses had cost the Predators critical goals in this game, and the offense appeared unable to solve Thomas for a score. Not a combination for winning this game.

The Predators cut the deficit to one as roman Josi carried the puck deep and around the net. he found Seth Jones pinching down from the point and he hit Jones with the pass. Jones one timed the puck past Thomas at 14:52.

With Mazanec off for the extra attacker, Shea Weber took a shot that caromed off the bodies in front. Paul Gaustad gathered in the puck and slammed home the tying goal with 47 seconds left.

Improbably, the Predators, who had played a sloppy game defensively, had battled back to earn a point.

Neither team could score in the OT. The Predators had the best chances, launching 4 shots on goal while the Panthers had 1.

The shoot out went to 6 rounds. David Legwand scored for the Predators, while Craig Smith, Matt Hendricks, Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, and Gabriel Bourque were stopped by Thomas.

Mazanec stopped Barkov,  Boyes, Nick Bjugstad, and Dimitri Kulikov. Jonathan Huberdeau scored in the second round and Tomas Kopecky won it in the 6th round.

Some observations:

  • This is a game the Predators have to win if they are going to get back into the playoff hunt. The defensive lapses that cost the Predators this game was a bit of bad luck and momentary lapses of focus.

  • The compete level in the third in the offensive zone was good. It is encouraging to seeing the team battle back and at least get the tie.

  • I can't fault Mazanec on the goals that he gave up. The defense broke down in front of him and hung him out to dry.

  • I like the compete level and the offensive presence of Craig Smith. He is showing the offensive skills that make him the most dangerous player for the Predators.

  • Viktor Stalberg was relegated to the 4th line. Frankly, this makes no sense to me. He had shown good jump offensively and has been responsible in all zones. In my opinion, this is a waste of his talent and what he can bring to the team. He had 13:02 TOI tonight.
This was a squandered opportunity by the Predators for the two points. Kudos for fighting back to get at least one.

At this point of the season, the Predators cannot afford to give away points.

My three stars:

1. Tomas Kopecky

2. Mike Fisher

3. Shea Weber

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