Saturday, December 20, 2014

Predators Overcome Phantom Goal, Defeat Wild In OT 6-5

After three days off, the Nashville Predators were back in action, traveling to Minnesota for their first meeting of the season with the Wild. The Predators are currently third in the Central Division with 42 points, while Minnesota is 5th with 34 points.

The Predators would be missing James Neal off the top line as he did not make the trip due to illness. Craig Smith moved to the top line line to replace Neal.

The Predators have won 4 of their last 5 contests. The Wild have dropped 4 of their past 6 games.

Pekka Rinne manned the crease for the Predators, while the Wild had Darcy Kuemper between the pipes.

The Wild got off to the start they wanted as Jason Zucker cruised unmolested down the slotand lifted a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 1-0 just 1:10 into the contest. Zucker took a nice pass from Jason Pominville and beat Ryan Ellis right down the middle of the slot for the easy score.

Calle Jarnkrok answered for the Predators with his third goal of the year as he forced a turnover and drove the net. He faked kuemper to ice ice danced around him to deposit the puck into the empty net at 4:37 of the first period.

The Wild took a 2-1 lead at 6:37 as Rinne made a save off a Charlie Coyle shot but the puck went off the skate of Zach Parise and past Rinne.

The Predators tied the game at 13:58 as Victor Bartley threw the puck from behind the goal line and Matt Cullen deflected it short side over the shoulder of Kuemper. Bartley had joined the rush and although he lost the puck had the presence of mind to spot Cullen and flip it back toward the net.

The Predators took their first lead of the game as Craig Smith controlled a face off won by Mike Ribeiro and lifted a backhand shot that hit Kuemper in the shoulder and fluttered into the net at 18:14.

What a Wild (pardon the pun) first period. The Predators out shot the Wild 14-6.

The second period opened with the Wild making a change in net as they brought in Niklas Backstrom.

The Wild tied the game on a power goal, but review showed the puck never crossed the goal line. A further replay seemed to show Derek Roy fishing the puck out from under Rinne when it was across the goal line. The goal was awarded to Marco Scandella.

That would be the only scoring in a bizarre second period. The Predators needed to get their mojo back and take the game in the third period.

That mojo came in the form of Filip Forsberg as he drove into the zone, fired a shot wide and gathered his own rebound and banged the puck into the net for a 4-3 Predator lead at 1:48 of the third period.

The Predators made it a 2 goal lead on the power play (A POWER PLAY GOAL!!) as Roman Josi blasted a shot from the blue line over the shoulder of Backstrom at 9:05 of the third period.

That two goal lead was short lived as Zach Parise redirected a shot on the power play to make it 5-4 at 10:46 of the third period.

The Wild tied the game with the extra attacker on the ice and just 48 seconds remaining. thomas Vanek knocked home a rebound of a Rinne save to tie it a 5.

In the overtime, Mattias Ekholm worked from behind the net to a soft spot in front of the net and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Backstrom for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • Taylor Beck returned to the line up after missing 4 games with a concussion.
  • Paul Gaustad was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. Viktor Stalberg has been added to the roster but was not active tonight.
  • Victor Bartley was in the line up due to Anton Volchenkov being scratched. Although not as physical as Volchenkov, he plays a solid game and was responsible for the primary assist on the Predators second goal.
  • The Predators were guilty of allowing the Wild to drive the slot too many times in the first period. Leaky defense cost them the two goals that they gave up. That leaky defense cost them a regulation win as well as the Predators left too many Wild forwards alone in front of the net throughout the game.
  • The bounce back ability of this team continues to impress. Giving up the first goal or falling behind doesn't seem to faze this team as they just keep pushing back in the face of adversity. This is a remarkable turnaround from last season, and while it points to a different mindset, I also believe it points to the confidence these players have in their talent and in one another.
  • Mike Fisher was called for a double minor for hooking, a call I have never seen before. The explanation was that he committed two different penalties so both were called. Again, a call I have never seen before.
  • The Wild's third goal was specious at best. Called no goal on the ice, there was no video evidence that the puck crossed the goal line, just an inference that it had. This may sound like sour grapes, but if the League wants to keep any credibility that it has, it must do a better job on these kind of calls. This one was a total cluster.
  • Filip Forsberg continues his strong play. His 13th goal of the season was a heady play, essentially passing the puck to himself before banging it into the open net. He shows no signs of slowing down and continues his torrid play.
  • Olli Jokinen played in his 1200th game tonight.
  • Scary moment in the second period as Mike Ribeiro was plowed into the boards by Eric haula. No call on the play, and Ribeiro retreated to the locker room for a brief period but returned to the game.
  • Mattias Ekholm showed great patience in scoring the game winner, finding a soft spot a placing the shot in high for the game winner. One of the noticeable differences in the Predators game this season is how active the defense is in the offensive zone, and Ekholm's game winner was the result of his play down low in the offensive zone.
  • One could look at the score and say Rinne didn't have a great game. Undoubtedly, it was not his best game, but he didn't get a lot of help in front of the net as the Wild had, for the most, a free reign in front of the net.
The Predators showed some character in winning this game. They kept coming back, overcame adversity and horrible officiating, and just would not quit.

That is the mark of a team that can do great things.

My three stars:

1. Mattias Ekholm

2. Zach Parise

3.Craig Smith

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