What could have been a momentum building goal for the Avalanche was answered just 16 seconds later as Calle Jarnkrok stole the puck at the Predators blue line and torched Semyon Varlamov top shelf to tie the game.
From that point on, it was all Predators as they out shot the Avalanche 41-20 and scored four more goals before surrendering a late power play goal en route to a 5-2 win over their Central Division rival.
Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Eric Nystrom all tallied for the Predators.
John Mitchell scored a power play goal with 1:19 left in the game for the Avs final goal.
Pekka Rinne didn't have a lot of work, but did make several big time saves to keep the Avalanche from getting back in the game.
By Contrast, Semyon Varlamov faced a barrage of rubber from the Predators before being pulled in the third period for Reto Berra.
The Predators shut down the high octane offense of the Avalanche, limiting them to 8 shots through the first 40 minutes. The Predators gave up 12 shots in the third, but by then, the game was out of reach for the Avalanche.
- Big ups to Captain Shea Weber. He dropped the gloves with Gabriel Landeskog after Landeskog launched himself at Roman Josi and hit him high. Weber picked up 17 minutes in penalties (2 for instigation; 5 for fighting; and a mandatory 10 minute misconduct for instigation). But Weber sent a message to the Avalanche that those types of questionable hits wouldn't be tolerated. The Avs got the message, as no further hits of those type occurred. This is the type of leadership that Weber has brought all season, and it was good to see him step up for a teammate.
- Filip Forsberg notched his 21st goal of the season just 54 seconds into the third period. Forsberg used his quick release from the slot to beat Varlamov under the crossbar and chase him from the game. Forsberg has 51 points (21G-30A) in 60 games and leads all rookies with a +20.
- The Avalanche entered the game having won 4 of their previous 5 games and had scored 19 goals in those 5 contests. The Predators did an excellent job of disrupting the Avs entries into the zone and choked them off in the neutral zone. They rarely allowed the Avs to get into the offensive zone cleanly and were aggressive in the defensive zone. Their defensive play was reflected in the shots the Avs got on net. They had 3 in the first period; 5 in the second; and 12 in the third.
- Craig Smith continues his strong play. He scored on a rocket from the face off circle that beat Varlamov to the far post. Smith has 7 points (5G-2A) in his last 7 games. Smith has been aggressive in all zones and is playing with lots of jump.
- Eric Nystrom scored from the defensive zone on a Predators PK. Coach Patrick Roy had pulled Reto Berra for the extra attacker to give the Avs a 6 on 4 advantage. That proved to be a bad decision as Nystrom battled on the boards and got control of the puck. He fired it down the ice and the puck landed flat and slid into the net. This was Nystrom's 7th goal of the season and undoubtedly his most unusual.
- I really like the line of Mike Santorelli and Colin Wilson centered by Jarnkrok. They have excellent speed, control the puck, and created some good scoring chances. This line looks like it can be a potent one for the Predators, and it will be interesting to see how they gel.
- The Predators continue to be dominant on home ice. They are a League best 26-3-1 at the Bridge.
- This is the 8th time this season that the Predators have registered 40 or more shots.
- The Predators are 26-6-2 when they out shoot their opponent, the best in the NHL.
- Pekka Rinne won his 35th game of the season, best in the NHL. (Can you say Vezina?)
- Calle Jarnkrok's goal was his first in 19 games. jarnkrok has been playing well but has not been able to find the net. Great to see him respond like he did tonight after being scratched in the Predators previous game against Buffalo.
- Last season, the Predators goal differential (goals for/goals against) was a -19. Through tonight's game, the Predators goal differential is +43. The Predators are scoring 2.92 goals per game, 8th best in the NHL. They are allowing 2.27 goals per game, 2nd best in the NHL. The turnaround in the play of this team is remarkable.
- The Predators now have 89 points. The Ducks have 83; the Blues have 80. In the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens have 83 and the Islanders have 82.
The kind of effort that has to happen every night in this sprint to the end of the season.
My three stars:
1. Craig Smith
2. Roman Josi
3. Calle Jarnkrok