Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Predators Snuff the Flames 4-2

The Nashville Predators were looking to end their three game losing streak and their five game on a positive note. They needed a complete game in all zones and to especially regain confidence in their ability to score.

The visiting Calgary Flames were just what the doctor ordered.

The Predators downed the Flames 4-2 at Bridgestone Arena, employing their magical formula of winning most of their games when they score first. The Predators are 17-2-4 when scoring the first goal.

That first goal came courtesy of Shea Weber, who blew a puck past Flames netminder Karri Ramo at 15:52 of the first period and with the Predators on the power play.

The Flames tied the game at 18:56 of the first period as Jiri Hudler took a backhand that Predator goaltender Carter Hutton deflected with his pad. The puck came to Lee Stempniak in the slot and he buried a shot into the open net.

After a second period that was scoreless, both teams found the net in the third period.

Just 55 seconds into the third period, Ryan Ellis carried the puck into the offensive zone. He showed great patience to wait for an open shooting lane that appeared as no Calgary player challenged the puck. Once Ellis had that lane, he blasted a slap shot past Ramo for a 2-1 lead.

The Predators tallied again on the power play as Seth Jones took a shot from the blue line that bounced around in the traffic in front of the net. Ramo could not locate the puck but Craig Smith could. He drove the net and beat Ramo glove side to give the Predators a 3-1 lead at 2:40 of the third period.

Viktor Stalberg got his 6th goal of the season as he went to the front of the net and re-directed a  Ryan Ellis slap shot to make it 4-1 at 10:52.

The Flames would cut the deficit to 4-2 at 13:07 when Mikael Backlund  came off the wall and beat Hutton with a wrist shot.

The Predators would shut down the Flames for the rest of the period, including the final two minutes with Ramo pulled for an extra attacker and snapped their losing streak with a much needed 4-2 win.

Some observations:

  • The Predators power play had been 1 for 13 in their previous four games. tonight, they were 2 for 5 (the fifth was a 55 second man advantage at the end of the game). They showed much better movement without the puck to set up shots and managed the puck well. Weber's goal was an absolute bomb that came as he worked his way open to the left of Ramo. Smith's goal came from basic Predators hockey: shoot the puck and get traffic to the net. On that play, Nick Spaling was creating havoc in front to give Smith a chance to control the puck and get the shot.

  • The Predators power play is connecting at 21% after tonight's game, good for 7th in the NHL.

  • Weber's goal tonight gives him 11 for the year, best among NHL defensemen.

  • Craig Smith's goal was his 14th of the season and leads the team.

  • David Legwand picked up three assists tonight. Obviously, Legwand read my blog chastising him for being disinterested in the Minnesota game and it lit a fire under him.

  • Carter Hutton had a solid game and made some good saves. He stopped 22 of 24 shots and picked up his first win since December 14.

  • Seth Jones picked up an assist on the Predators second power play. With that point, he is tied for second in points for rookie defensemen with Eric Gelinas of New Jersey with 18 points..

  • Ryan Ellis had a strong game, picking up a goal and an assist and was a +2 for the game.
This was a solid win for the Predators as they were sound in all phases of the game.

The challenge for this team will be to play consistently and bring this effort every night.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Ellis

2. Shea Weber

3. David Legwand

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