Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Predators Refuse to Lose, Defeat the Blues 3-2


That was the Nashville Predators in their contest at the Bridgestone Arena against the St. Louis Blues in front of a raucous standing room only crowd.

The Predators overcame a talented and feisty Blues team and a blown goal call that negated a Predators score to defeat the Blues 3-2 and maintain their lead over their Central Division rival.

Shea Weber had two goals, including the game winner while the Predators were shorthanded. Gabriel Bourque had a stellar game, picking up a goal and an assist. Bourque scored just 5 seconds after a goal by Filip Forsberg was ruled no goal.

Olli Jokinen had his first multi point game as a Predator, picking up two assists.

Both teams played the night before, with the Predators game going to a shootout while the Blues won in regulation. Yet it was the Blues that looked like the more tired team as the Predators dominated stretches of play and out shot the Blues 47-28.

Weber gave the Predators a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot that beat Blues netminder Brian Elliot over the glove at 18:05 of the first period.

The Blues tied the game as Chris Butler beat Pekka Rinne through traffic and off the leg of Weber 50 seconds into the second period.

The Blues made it 2-1 on a 3 on 1 down low, passing the puck around until T. J. Oshie was able to bury a shot past Rinne, who had no chance on the shot.

The Predators looked to have tied the game as a Filip Forsberg shot tumbled over the pads of Elliot and just across the goal line. It was ruled no goal on the ice, and after a lengthy review, the War Room in Toronto ruled there was inconclusive evidence that the puck had crossed the goal line.

Guess they didn't have that angle to look at when they were making their review.

Gabriel Bourque tied the game at at 16:06 of the second period as he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick at the top of the crease and beat Elliott with a low shot to the stick side.

Weber got the game winning goal with the Predators on the penalty kill. Roman Josi started a 2 on 1 and slid a pass to Weber, who rifled a shot over the shoulder of Elliott at 9:02 of the third period.

The Predators were able to hold off the Blues for the remainder of the period, including 1:40 with Elliott pulled for the extra attacker for the critical 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • Can't say enough good things about Gabriel Bourque and his play of late. He has made the most of his time settling into the fourth line. He has played with jump and has been a demon on the forecheck. Tonight, he created several turnovers off the forecheck. He absolutely abused Jay Bouwmeester on his goal, driving through the Blues defender and straight to the net for his score. I like his energy, his hustle, and his compete level, and it was good to see him rewarded for his efforts by getting on the score sheet tonight.
  • When was the last time you saw two defensemen on a 2 on 1 rush? On the penalty kill? I have mentioned roman Josi's skating ability before, and his speed and ability to handle the puck set up the game winner. But how about Shea Weber jumping into the rush from in front of his own net and flying down the ice? I have said that I think Weber is skating better this season than he has in any of his professional seasons and it showed tonight. 
  • Weber's shorthanded goal was the first shorthanded goal the Blues have allowed this season.
  • Speaking of Weber, his shot placement on his two goals was perfect. Under the crossbar for his first and wired over the blocker and shoulder of Elliott for his second.
  • Weber's shorthanded goal was the first shorty for the Predators this season.
  • Balanced scoring has been the hallmark of this team this season. The fourth line of Bourque, Jokinen, and Paul Gaustad combined for 5 points (1G-4A) and were a +7 tonight.
  • The Predators are 14-2-1 on home ice this season. Protecting home ice is critical and the Predators have done a great job of doing that. And kudos to the home crowd for bringing it once again tonight. The noise and support for the team are noticed by not only the Predators but by their opponents as well.
  • Anton Volchenkov returned to the line up after missing five game dues to an injury. Matt Cullen was scratched due to an upper body injury.
  • Brian Elliott returned to action for the Blues after missing 14 games due to an injury.
  • The Predators kept their foot on the gas all game, and despite the great work in net by Elliott, they just kept firing shots on goal. They had 12, 18, and 17 shots in each period. They were relentless in getting the puck on net and creating chances.
  • By contrast, they held the Blues to 28 total shots: 8; 8; and 12 for each period.
  • 36 games into the season and the Predators have not lost back to back games.
  • The Predators are 24-9-3, good for 51 points. They are 1 point behind the Blackhawks, who were idle tonight, and 4 points in front of the Blues.
This was a great bounce back after the disappointing loss the night before. And it was against a good St. Louis squad that is challenging the Predators for second place in the Central.

This was a total team effort, the kind the Predators are going to need as they prepare for a grueling stretch in the month of January.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Olli Jokinen

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