Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Predators Continue Kings Road Woes With 4-3 SO Win

The Nashville Predators faced off against the L.A. Kings at Bridgestone Arena, and while the Kings have struggled on the road this season, that didn't mean this would be an easy game for the Predators.

It wasn't.

A game that saw both teams swap leads went to a shootout before the Predators finally won in the 7th round 4-3.

James Neal potted the only goal in the 7th round to win the game for the Predators.

The Predators opened the scoring as Colin Wilson found a streaking Craig Smith behind the Kings defense and Smith burned Martin Jones five hole to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 6:24 of the first period.

The Kings would answer as a Justin Williams shot deflected off the skate of Jamie McBain and past Pekka Rinne at 11:32 of the first period.

Just 61 seconds into the second period, Jeff Carter launched an aerial pass from his own zone that Marian Gaborik ran down and then roofed a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 2-1.

The Predators answered with two late goals to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Ryan Ellis tied the game with a blast from the top of the face off circle that beat Jones cleanly.

The Predators took the lead off of hard work by Taylor Beck. Beck got control of the puck and with a Kings defender on his back, spun and fired a backhand shot that Erick Nystrom tipped past Jones.

Momentum to the Predators and the crowd at the Bridge was rocking.

That changed just 38 seconds into the third period as Drew Doughty took the puck from his own end, skated through the Predators team, and using a defender as a screen, fired a shot that fooled Rinne and squirted through his pads to tie the game.

The overtime period saw the Predators hit the post on a sweet drive by Filip Forsberg and from a shot by Shea Weber. The Predators also had a shot hit Jones, go over his shoulder, and trickle just outside the post.

The scoreless overtime set up the heroics by Neal, but Rinne was also spectacular, stopping all 7 Kings shooters to seal the win.

Some observations:

  • Although James Neal scored the game winner in the shootout, the Predators top line was held without a point. The production of this top line has drawn the attention of the oppositions top defenders, and it is going to become tougher for these guys to score. Their effort was outstanding, including a sequence in the first period that saw then possess the puck in the Kings zone for over a minute and fire four shots on net. As long as the effort is there, I am not worried- this unit will get their points.

  • That said, it is good to see scoring coming from the other lines of the Predators. I especially am liking the play of the Wilson, Smith, Jarnkrok line. their speed accounted for the first Predators goal and they were active and energetic all night. Their play is going to have to continue at this high level, and if it does, it will give the Predators another legitimate scoring line and will take some pressure off the top unit.

  • James Neal has a wickedly quick release. That was evident on the shootout winner, but when he loads up his shot, the puck is not on his stick long. that makes him a consistent scoring threat.

  • Sigh... the Predators power play. Tonight, they were 0-4, including the last 1:32 of the overtime period when it was 4 on 3. This unit is just going to have to improve.

  • The Predators were 45% in the face off circle, including numerous lost draws in the offensive zone.

  • Shea Weber picked up an assist tonight to give him 223 for his career. Weber has moved to first all time among Predators defensemen, passing Kimmo Timonen. Weber is third all time among all Predator players.

  • Last season, the Predators struggled in the shootout. This season, they are 3-1.

  • Matt Cullen became the oldest player to play for the Predators at 38 years, 23 days. He surpasses Hal Gill (38 years, 21 days) for that...honor.

  • The ability to win close games is going to be critical for any team to have success. The Predators are 9-3-2 in one goal games this season.

  • The Kings are 10-2 at home this season. With this loss, they are 1-4-4 on the road.

  • Defenseman Drew Doughty played 33:40 tonight. Shnikey!

  • Shea Weber led the Predators with 27:49 of ice time.

  • The Kings like to play a big hit, physical game. The Predators answered that style with physical play of their own. Eric Nystrom had a booming hit on Brayden McNabb. Shea Weber had a monstrous hit along the wall, and although it was a shoulder to shoulder hit, referee Tim Pell (one of the absolutely worst officials in the league) called it a head shot.

  • The Predators are 5-1-1 against Pacific Division teams.

This was a solid win against a good team, road struggles of the Kings notwithstanding. The ability of the other lines besides the top line to come up with timely scoring is a strong positive for the Predators.

One quarter of the way through the season and this is the second best start in team history.

Stay grounded and build on this success and more good things will happen for this team.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Colin Wilson

3. Marian Gaborik

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