Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weber's Two Goals Leads the Predators Past the Stars

On a frigid night in Nashville, the action inside the Bridgestone Arena was heated between the Predators and the Dallas Stars. The Predators were attempting to win their third straight game over their Central Division rivals while the Stars were looking to build on the momentum of 4 wins in their last 6 games.

The Predators prevailed 3-2 in overtime, with Shea Weber scoring just 17 seconds into the extra frame. The game winner was Weber's second goal of the night.

The game never should have gotten to overtime, as Filip Forsberg scored with just over three minutes to go in regulation. Craig Smith was tied up with Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen and prevented him from getting over to defend the shot. Referee Paul Devorsky was emphatic that Smith had been cross checked into Lehtonen and it was a good goal. However, the officials huddled and waved off the goal with no clear explanation given.

The Predators got on the board first as Shea Weber took a drop pass from Mike Ribeiro and blasted a shot from inside the blue line that went through Lehtonen to make it 1-0 (no, really, the shot looked like it went THROUGH Lehtonen).

The Stars tied it at 1 when Pekka Rinne failed to completely seal off the post and Jason Spezza fired a shot from a bad angle that went under Rinne's glove and into the net.

Making his first appearance in an NHL game, Miikka Salomaki took a long pass from Roman Josi an went in on a breakaway. Lehtonen stopped the first shot but Salomaki followed the rebound and lifted it over the pad of Lehtonen for his first NHL goal and a 2-1 Predators lead.

The Stars tied the game with 3 seconds left in the second when Trevor Daly pinched down from the blue line and no one on the Predators picked him up. He was alone at the side of the net and was able to put the puck into a nearly open net off a pass from Jamie Benn.

In the overtime, the Stars controlled the face off but turned it over in their zone. Colin Wilson got the puck across the ice to Shea Weber who let a wrist shot go that hit Lehtonen in the shoulder and flipped over and into the net for the game winner.

Some observations:

  • With the win tonight, the Predators are first in the NHL with 58 points. Not the Central Division, but the NH freakin L. The Ducks also have 58 points but have played 2 more games than the Predators. Honestly, I did not see this coming. No one did. This team is playing with confidence and with the mentality that they are never out of a game. They have overcome bad calls, tough opponents, and now a spate of injuries. They just keep coming and refuse to roll over. I like the way this team plays and I like the way they carry themselves on the ice. They are quietly confident and playing at a high level. The test for them will be to continue to do so in the second half of the season.
  • Speaking of those injuries, James Neal has now been placed on injured reserve. Eric Nystrom has also been added to IR. And tonight, Ryan Ellis left the game midway of the second period in obvious pain and did not return to the game. It looked as if he had an injury to his leg.
  • Taylor Beck and Matt Cullen have been skating and look to be closer to returning. No timetable on their return has been given, though.
  • With his assist on Weber's first goal, Roman Josi picked up his 100th NHL point. He later added an assist on Salomaki's goal. Josi is quietly becoming a defenseman that will have to be considered when discussing the top NHL blueliners.
  • This was the 11th consecutive game in which the Predators have scored 3 or more goals. It used to be that when the Predators were discussed by the national media, it was always the "offensively challenged" Predators. No more.
  • Miikka Salomaki had 10:49 of ice time, and even saw some action on the PK. He had 7 hits, 4 shots on goal, and one goal in his debut. He did not look out of place out there in his first NHL action. Good on you, young man.
  • The game was a tight checking contest with lots of hitting. The Stars spent a lot of time grabbing and tripping with no calls. Kudos to the Predators for pushing through a muck and grind contest.
  • The Predators were able to kill off all 3 power play chances by the Stars, and were very effective on the PK. The Predators power play...oh, the power play. 0-2 tonight and very few threats.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 26:39
  • Victor Bartley led the team with 4 blocked shots.
  • The Predators are 16-2-1 on home ice, by far and away the best home record in the NHL.
This was a tough win against a hungry opponent that wanted badly to continue their positive momentum. The Predators refused to let injuries or bad calls deter them from their objective of getting these important 2 points.

The team gets back at with an afternoon  road meeting against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.This will be another hungry team that would like nothing more than to knock off the Predators.

Another big challenge awaits.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Roman Josi

3. Miikka Salomaki

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