Thursday, February 27, 2014

Predators Use Potent Power Play to Defeat Lightning

The Nashville Predators are thankful their power play was clicking. Heck, it wasn't just clicking, it was potent.

The Predators scored all three goals on the man advantage to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 at Bridgestone Arena in their first game back from the Olympic break.

Of the 5 goals scored in this contest tonight, 4 came off the power play.

The Predators are desperately trying to claw their way back into playoff contention, and every game is critical for this team.

The game did not begin the way the Predators wanted. In fact, in the first period the Predators looked like they were still on the Olympic break.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead off two goals by Martin St. Louis. the first was one of the easier goals he will ever score as he gathered in a rebound off the pads of Carter Hutton and banged the puck into an open net for a 1-0 Lightning lead at 5:26 of the first period.

St. Louis notched his second goal on the power play. His shot from the face off circle appeared to be stopped by Hutton but it trickled between his pad and the post to make it 2-0 at 9:13 of the first period.

The period ended with the Predators rarely challenging Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. Shots were 9-8 in favor of the Lightning.

The Predators used the power play to get going in the second period. With Nikita Kucherov in the box serving a penalty for too many men on the ice against the Lightning, Ryan Ellis found Matt Cullen at the side of the net with a slap pass. Cullen buried a shot over the shoulder of Bishop and inside the far post to cut the lead to 2-1 at 12:05 of the second period.

Roman Josi tied the game at 13:16 of the second with the Predators again on the power play. He walked in from the blue line and wired a shot over the shoulder of bishop with Patric Hornqvist in front providing a screen.

Hornqvist had a few testy confrontations with Bishop, with Bishop throwing a few cheap ,shot punches at Hornqvist as he was crowding the front of the net.

So it was only fitting that Hornqvist would get the game winner- again on the power play at 13:56 of the third period. Mike fisher took a shot that Bishop could not control, and Hornqvist got his stick on the puck at the top of the crease and jammed it between the pads of Bishop for the go ahead goal.

The Predators did a good job of shutting down the Lightning for the remainder of the game, although they solidly rang a shot off the post after the Predators had taken the lead.

Some observations:

  • After looking sluggish in the first period, the Predators got their legs moving and upped their intensity to take control of the game. The Predators defense was outstanding in the final two periods, allowing only 7 shots in the final 40 minutes. The Lightning have a potent offense and the Predators did a great job of disrupting their offensive flow.

  • The Predators have the 7th ranked power play in the NHL, connecting at 20.4%. After tonight, they have raised that percentage to 21.7% by going 3 for 5 on the man advantage.

  • Matt Cullen's goal was his first in 29 games. he last scored November 27th.

  • Hornqvist scored his first goal in 10 games.

  • Roman Josi picked up his 12th point in his last 13 games. He now has 9 goals on the season.

  • Carter Hutton got a lot of help from his defense, but had a solid game. He is now 7-2-2 in his last 11 games.

  • Shea Weber picked up two assists and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 40 points. Weber also lead the team in time on ice, with 28:18.

  • This is only the second win of the season for the Predators when trailing after the first period. They are now 2-17-4 when trailing after the first 20 minutes.
The Predators have to amass points in this five game home stand, and this was a good start. They were resilient and determined and refused to fold when down early.

They will have to keep it up to get back in the playoff race.

My three stars:

1. Patric Hornqvist

2. Marty St. Louis

3. Shea Weber

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