Sunday, February 22, 2015

Predators Salvage Two Points With A Shootout Win Over the Sabres

The Nashville Predators went into their game with the Buffalo Sabres with a mandate to shoot the puck.

They did just that at First Niagara Center, firing 36 shots on Sabres goalie Michael Neuvirth in regulation.

It took regulation, overtime, and for the second game in a row for the Predators, a shootout, before the Predators prevailed 2-1.

Neuvirth was up to the challenge, stopping 35 of those shots he faced, giving up a late power play goal to Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro's goal was critical for the Predators because they had given up a second period goal to Tyler Ennis when the a bad line change left Ennis wide open and he beat Carter Hutton to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

The Predators defense, other than that breakdown, was generally good. They held the Sabres to 13 shots in regulation, although they gave up two breakaways that Hutton made great saves to stop.

In the overtime, the Predators had the final minute on a power play, but could not capitalize.

In the shootout,  Mike Santorelli and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators in a four round shootout while Tyler Ennis was the only scorer for the Sabres as the Predators won the game 2-1.

Some observations:
  • Lines were juggled once again for this game. Neal, Ribeiro, and Forsberg were reunited. Fisher centered Craig Smith and Matt Cullen. Mike Santorelli centered Colin Wilson and Taylor Beck. Nystrom, Gaustad, and Bourque remained intact on the 4th line.
  • D pairs were Weber, Josi; Ekholm, Franson; and Jones and Bitetto.
  • Paul Gaustad returned to the First Niagra Center, where he played 479 games for the Sabres.
  • In their last two games, the Predators had gotten away from what has brought them success. Too many cute plays in the offensive zone and breakdowns in the defensive zone and it has cost them. Simple hockey- getting pucks to the net and attacking have been replaced with attempting fancy passes and the results have shown in their play of late. This team is good, but getting away from their fundamentals is not going to yield consistently good results. This game saw them get back to getting pucks on net and attacking the goal. That is how they are going to have to play to continue to win games.
  •  Carter Hutton played a very good game, with the only Sabres goal coming off a bad line change by the Predators that resulted in Ennis beating Hutton on a shot that would have been very difficult to stop. Hutton stopped two breakaways and made some good saves through the course of the game.
  • The power play struggled for most of the night. The first 5 chances the Predators had did not generate much quality in terms of shots and there wasn't a great sense of urgency. That said, Mike Ribeiro did convert on the Preds 6th opportunity to tie the game. Their 7th power play, which came with 2:58 remaining in the game, was totally inept and didn't generate a shot.
  •  The 8th Predators power play came with 1 minute remaining in overtime. Once again, the man advantage unit could not get control of the puck and create any quality chances.
  • You have to give props to Michael Neuvirth. The Predators threw 36 shots at him in regulation and he made some outstanding saves to keep the Sabres in the game. You can't fault the Predators for their effort in the offensive zone and for getting pucks to the net. Neuvirth was just solid between the pipes, and this game looked for all the world like a hot goalie was going to steal a game from the Preds.
  • The Predators got 38 shots through on Neuvirth, but the Sabres also blocked another 23 shots. Think Head Coach Laviolette's message to shoot the puck got through to these guys?
  • The Predators now have 87 points, and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Anaheim and Montreal have 81; the Islanders, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis have 80. 

This wasn't a pretty win by any stretch, but it was a pretty win.


Pretty from the standpoint that the Predators never relented in their attack and kept persevering a red-hot goalie that almost stole a game.

That relentlessness is going to be needed in the last quarter of this season.

My three stars:

1. Mike Ribeiro

2. Michael Neuvirth

3. Filip Forsberg

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