Thursday, January 9, 2014

Predators Squander Two goal Lead in Loss to the Ducks

The Nashville Predators had an opportunity to do something only a handful of teams have done this season: defeat the Anaheim Ducks.

The Predators started that mission well, scoring 2 goals on 6 shots in the first period.

A brutal second period doomed the Predators as they gave up 4 goals en route to a 4-3 loss at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators opened the scoring at 1:52 of the first period as Gabriel Bourque controlled the puck behind the Ducks net. He found Paul Gaustad, who split three Ducks players and beat Frederik Andersen glove side to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Craig Smith made it 2-0 at 2:22 of the first as he took a pass from Matt Cullen and whipped a shot past Andersen glove side.

The Ducks were sluggish in the first period, but their forecheck was working and was effective in bottling the Predators up for most of the first period. The Predators had to know that the Ducks would come out with more fire and push in the second period.

Did they ever.

The Ducks outshot the Predators 17-8 and controlled the play in the second period with their strong forecheck and offensive play.

The Ducks took just 55 seconds to get on the board in the second period as Ryan Getzlaf fired a shot into a narrow space over the glove of Predators netminder Marek Mazanec.

The ducks tied the game on Getzlaf's second goal at 4:36 of the period as he beat Mazanec badly to the glove side. Mazanec was unscreened but could not stop the shot.

The Predators took a 3-2 lead at 5:31 of the second as Craig Smith fired a shot toward the net from below the face off circle. The puck bounced off Rich Clune and past Andersen.

As the Predators have disappointingly done all season, they quickly gave up the tying goal as Getzlaf made a great pass to spring Corey Perry. Perry fired a shot toward Mazanec with no traffic in front but the shot beat him five hole.

The Ducks took a 4-3 lead on the power play as Patrick Maroon took the puck at the top of the crease and backhanded a pass to Teemu Selanne. Selanne buried the shot into the wide open net for the game winner at 18:52 of the second period.

The Predators had some good opportunities on the power play in the third period but could not get a puck past Andersen. The Predators out shot the Ducks 12-4 in the third period but could not finish their chances.

What had been a promising start to a pivotal contest saw the Predators squander an opportunity to get a much needed win.

Some observations:

  • With his goal, Paul Gaustad tallied his 200th point.

  • For the life of me, some of the line combinations, especially late in the game, made no sense. Why on earth was Rich Clune getting top line minutes in critical situations late in the game when you had more offensive minded players on the bench?

  • Craig Smith continues to play well. his goal off a nice pass from Matt Cullen showed some sweet hands and the shot was placed perfectly.

  • Note to David Poile: see what offensively skilled players can do. It is not enough to have guys on the roseter that are gritty, or "Predator hard" (whatever that is). You have to have guys that can finish and can put pucks into the net.

  • The second Getzlaf goal and the goal given up to Perry were brutal. Both came on unscreened shots that abused Mazanec. Those were shots that Mazanec has to stop.

  • The Predators were without Patric Hornqvist, who is day to day with an injury.

  • Colin Wilson is struggling badly. He is ineffective in the offensive zone and tonight registered one shot on goal. he was a -3 and played only 12:03 with one shot on goal.

  • Roman Josi showed his skill at carrying the puck. Josi is one of the few Predators that is reliable in getting the puck through the neutral zone and carrying the puck through traffic. He logged 25:35 TOI tonight.

  • The Ducks forecheck caused problems for the Predators all night. That effort is one the Predators attempt to emulate every game. The difference between the two teams is that the Ducks can transition from gritty forechecking to dynamic offense. That is something to which the Predators can only aspire.
This is a disappointing loss in that the Predators folded in the face of the relentless pressure and talent of the Ducks.

It is two points that the team cannot afford to give away.

My three stars:

1. Ryan Getzlaf

2. Craig Smith

3. Matt Cullen

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