Saturday, January 3, 2015

Predators Survive In OT, Defeat the Kings 7-6

The Nashville Predators survived blown leads and bad defense to hold off the Los Angeles Kings in overtime by a 7-6 margin.

That is pretty amazing when you consider the Predators blew a 3 goal lead with just 2:04 remaining in the game.

The L.A. Kings scored on their first shot on goal against the Predators at the Staples Center as Matt Greene's seeing eye shot eluded Pekka Rinne.

Behind 1-0 in a hostile environment with the crowd in full throat, this was not the start the Predators wanted.

But this isn't your father's Predators.

9 shots later, the Predators had scored three goals and chased starter Jonathan Quick en route to a 3-1 lead midway of the first period.

Mike Fisher tallied from in front. Colin Wilson banked a shot off the stick of Greene past Quick 1:22 after the tying goal. Ryan Ellis ripped a slap shot from the point on the power play, and just like that the Predators had seized momentum and ended Quick's afternoon early.

Mattias Ekholm kept the pressure up early in the second period as his wrist shot from the point eluded Martin Jones, who was now in net for the Kings. Ekholm's second goal of the season came 2:16 into the period.

Mark Arcobello welcomed himself to the Predators line up as he roofed a shot short side over the shoulder of Jones at 3:57 of the second.

L.A. made it 5-2 just after their power play had ended as a shot through traffic from Alec Martinez got past Rinne at 6:29 of the second.

The Kings kept whittling away at the Predators lead as Jake Muzzin took a shot from the point that was re-directed by Dwight King and past Rinne at 15:05.

You knew the Kings weren't going to roll over and they would come back. The Predators were going to have to respond to the pressure from the Kings.

The first nine minutes of the third period were a shooting gallery for the Kings. The Predators were back on their heels and Rinne was tested by the Kings.

That changed when Gabriel Bourque used his speed to hunt down a puck and get a shot on net. Jones kicked out a rebound to Olli Jokinen, who buried the rebound to make it 6-3 at 8:38 of the third.

Dwight King recorded his second goal of the night as he banged home a rebound that Rinne gave up at 17:59. King was left alone at the front of the net and had no challenge from any Predator defender on his shot.

The Kings made it 6-5 with 64 seconds left as Alec Martinez let a blast go from the blue line that Rinne could not find. The Kings had  Jones pulled for the extra attacker.

The Predators could not hold the lead as Jeff Carter tallied with 34 seconds left to tie the game.

A massive choke job by the Predators that is just beyond words.

Going to the overtime, would the Predators fold?

They did not.

Roman Josi saved the Predators from utter embarrassment by ripping a shot from the slot past Jones just 18 seconds into the overtime for a 7-6 win.

Some observations:

  • Viktor Stalberg saw his first action of the season on a line with Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson, and I really liked the way Stalberg played. He was strong on the boards and used his speed to create some chances, and hopefully he can get his game going consistently. If he can, this will be a big boost to the Predators.
  • Matt Cullen and James Neal missed the game with injuries. Taylor Beck and Victor Bartley were placed on IR. Along with Stalberg, Miikka Salomaki was called up from Milwaukee and was a healthy scratch for this game.
  • Mark Arcobello, acquired in a trade from Edmonton for Derek Roy, saw his first action, skating on a line with Eric Nystrom and Calle Jarnkrok. Arcobello is a nice add to the roster as he plays with lots of energy and speed, and although smallish in stature, is not afraid of mixing it up in the hard areas of the ice. His goal in the second period was a sweet goal placed in a small area over the shoulder of Jones.
  • Even though the Predators jumped on the Kings, there was no quit in L.A.'s game. They are a very talented team and kept attacking the net and Rinne had to make some very good saves to keep the Kings off the board. The goals that Rinne gave up were goals scored with lots of traffic in front that were nearly impossible to stop.
  • I continue to like the play of Gabriel Bourque. His hustle made the Preds 6th goal possible, and his energy and jump have been a welcome dimension to the Predators 4th line.
  • The inability of the Predators to lock down games, especially with multi goal leads, is distressing to say the least. The lack of killer instinct and the inability to play sound defense is appalling, and Rinne got little support in front of the net. This is going to have to change for the team to have long term success. Put teams away when you have them down like this. NEVER let an opponent back into a game like you did tonight.
This game showed that the Predators can score. It also showed that they don't know how to handle prosperity and lack the killer instinct and lock down mentality that great teams have.

The defensive breakdowns tonight were horrific and nearly cost the Predators a game that they should have won easily.

Tighten this up and put teams away when you have the chance.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Dwight King

3. Alec Martinez

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