Saturday, February 14, 2015

Predators Defeat the Devils 3-1

For two periods and about half of the third, the New Jersey Devils played rope-a-dope with the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators threw a barrage of shots at Cory Schneider but found themselves tied at 1 with the Devils and less than 4 minutes remaining on the clock.

That's when Mike Ribeiro, Victor Bartley, and Colin Wilson worked a perfect tic tac toe pass through the slot resulting in Wilson burying the game winning goal.

Shortly after, Craig Smith would jam home another goal and the Predators would defeat the Devils by a 3-1 margin.

The first period was a shooting gallery for the Predators. They fired 20 shots on net to just 3 for the Devils.

Matt Cullen got the Predators on the board, carrying the puck from behind the net and beating Devils netminder Cory Schneider to the far post.

Schneider kept the Devils in the game, making some outstanding saves to keep the Predators from blowing the game wide open.

On the other end of the ice, Pekka Rinne was bored, facing only 3 shots and never seriously challenged.

The Devils got their legs going and their offensive pressure in the second period, and it resulted in the visitors getting back in the game.

The Devils tied the game on a power play in the second period when Steve Bernier backhanded a shot off the end boards over the glove of Rinne.

Rinne made an outstanding save on Mike Cammalleri in the second period to keep the score knotted at one.

That set up the heroics by Wilson and Smith in the third period as the Predators notched their 24th win on home ice.

Some observations:

  • Head Coach Peter Laviolette juggled his lines for this game. Colin Wilson and James Neal moved to the top line, centered by Mike Ribeiro. Mike Fisher centered Matt Cullen and Craig Smith on the second line. Calle Jarnkrok centered Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck on the third line. Paul Gaustad centered Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque on the fourth line. While you can't argue with the results of goals from the top two lines, I absolutely think that it was a waste to have Forsberg on that third line.There was not a lot of chemistry (okay, there was none) on that line and Jarnkrok and Beck are not good complimentary players to Forsberg's play making skills. Hopefully this is a short lived experiment with Forsberg on that line.
  • Anton Volchenkov was a scratch and Anthony Bitetto was in the line up. Bitetto logged 14:12 on the third D pair and has looked like he is getting more comfortable and settled in on the blue line.
  • Matt Cullen's goal was his first since December 20th. It was his 5th goal of the season.
  • Mattias Ekholm returned to the line up after being injured against the Florida Panthers last Sunday. Matty Ek played a solid 17:15 and was a +2 for the night.
  • Good to see the Honey Badger Craig Smith get back on the score sheet. His goal and assist were his first points since January 29th. Smith is a streaky scorer and let's hope this is the start of a scoring streak for Smith.
  • Pekka Rinne was not severely tested throughout the game, but he came up with a huge save on Mike Cammalleri in the second period. He slid across the crease and batted the puck out of harm's way with his arm. This was a key save as the Devils had gotten their legs and were starting to take the attack to the Predators. Rinne has the ability to make those highlight reel saves during the course of the game and swing momentum back to the Predators.
  • How important is Rinne to this team? In his last 16 games played, Rinne is 14-1-1, capturing 29 out of a possible 32 points for the team. If Rinne doesn't win the Vezina (and probably the Hart as well), it will be a crime.
  • Colin Wilson continues his strong play. Schneider robbed him in the first period, but Wilson just keeps playing a strong and determined game. Good to see him find the back of the net for the game winner and his 18th goal of the season.
  • You have to give props to Cory Schneider. He fought all night and made some great saves to keep the Devils close.He faced 21 shots in the first period alone and 38 shots for the game. Having played last night in Chicago, it looked like he finally wore down late in the game, but he was outstanding and the reason the Devils were still in the game late in the third period.
  • Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,525th game tonight, 13th in NHL history. His game tonight moved him past Brendan Shanahan.
  • The Predators are 15-5-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, including an 11-0 record at the Bridge.
  • The Predators have 82 points and are 6 points ahead of the Blues, who were off tonight, and 10 points ahead of Chicago, who was also idle. The are 5 points ahead of the Ducks, also off tonight.
This game had the makings of a trap game- an Eastern Conference opponent that had played the night before and has struggled this season. Add in an outstanding goalie and the Predators had to fight to pull out the win.

The difference in this team than in previous iterations is that they did fight for the win. They were relentless in their attack and just kept attacking until they secured the win.

They will have to keep up that intensity in the weeks ahead.

My three stars:

1. Colin Wilson

2. Matt Cullen

3. Cory Schneider

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