Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Predators Return the Favor, Defeat the Canadiens in OT

The two best goaltenders in the NHL as well as two of the best teams went head to head at the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators dueled with the Montreal Canadiens.

In their first meeting, the Canadiens won in overtime.

The Predators returned the favor, defeating the Candiens 3-2 on a Filip Forsberg power play goal.

Forsberg's heroics were set up by a tripping penalty on P.K. Subban for the Predators 5th power play goal of the night.

Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring with a highlight reel goal. Ekholm stole the puck, split the defense and was tripped. Ekholm got up off his belly, got to his knees, and flipped the puck past Carey Price to make it 1-0 for the Predators.

The Candiens came back strong in the second period, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead. The Predators failed to clear a puck that Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne should have covered. The puck squirted out into the slot and Brendan Gallagher slammed the puck past Rinne to tie the game at 1.

David Desharnais gave the Habs the lead when the Predators defensive coverage broke down. Desharnais was left alone at the side of the net, and P.A. Parenteau found him with a perfect pass. Rinne had no chance as Desharnais banged home the puck into a wide open net.

Ryan Ellis tied the game in the third period when his flip from the blue line hit the ice 10 feet in front of Price. Filip Forsberg was in front screening Price and the puck took a high bounce and into the net over the shoulder of Price for a 2 all score.

In the overtime, Forsberg stole the puck from Subban and was off on a breakaway when Subban tripped Forsberg. On the ensuing power play, Mike Ribeiro mad a nice pass across the slot and Forsberg buried the game winner over an out of position Price.

Some observations:

  • Mattias Ekholm scored a beauty of a goal. He stole the puck, split the defense, was tripped, and still had the presence to get his stick on the puck and lift it over Price. That goal was the first goal that Price had given up in 166:10 of play. Ekholm has been solid in the defensive end and has shown some surprisingly good offensive flair. That goal had to lift the Predators as it showed they could score against the best netminder in the NHL.
  • Price leads the league with 40 wins. Pekka Rinne is right behind him, picking up his 39th win tonight. Rinne was strong in the net and made some quality saves. Both goals that the Canadiens scored occurred off defensive breakdowns by the team in front of him. The Desharnais goal was especially egregious, as the forward responsible for Desharnais was no where to be found on that scoring play. Rinne was solid and made some very good saves on quality scoring chances by the Habs.
  • Ryan Ellis scored his career high 7th goal with what could be charitably called a fluke goal. The puck took a high bounce over the shoulder of Price, but full marks to Ellis for getting it on net and to Forsberg for doing a good job battling in front of the net and screening Price.
  • Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round draft choice in 2014, made his NHL debut. He logged 11:25 in ice time and put 3 shots on net. The 18 year old has had quite a year, playing in the Swedish Elite League, the World Junior Championships (representing Sweden), the American Hockey League, and now the NHL. And he is not even close to being old enough to buy a beer.
  • Fiala was a call up because Viktor Stalberg was injured in the morning skate. Matt Cullen was also scratched. No word on his status.
  • With the win, the Predators are now 14-8 in overtime.
  • Colin Wilson picked up an assist on the goal by Ryan Ellis, his 100th assist.
  • Mike Ribeiro had 2 assists, giving him 497 for his career.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up his 22nd second goal of the season with his overtime tally. This was his 6th game winning goal of the year.
  • This is the first time that the Predators have won back to back games since February 22nd and 24th.
  • Props to the Predator fans. Tonight's sellout crowd was the 26th of the season, setting a franchise record.
  • Although the game winning goal came on the power play, the Predators power play unit continues to struggle. They were 1-5 tonight and often had trouble just entering the zone. The Predators are going to have to get the power play fixed and become more of a threat with the man advantage or it is going to bite them in the ass in the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.
  • The Predators were 60% in the faceoff circle. Mike Fisher led the way, winning 16 of 20 draws.
  • The Predators out shot the Canadiens 31-29.
The Predators sit 1 point behind St. Louis and Anaheim with 98 points and 4 points ahead of Chicago. With the point tonight, the Canadiens are the first team in the NHL to reach 100 points.

It doesn't get any easier for the Predators as they will have a 2 game roadie with Tampa Bay and Washington, two teams that will look to avenge earlier season losses to the Predators.

Play like you did tonight and you can win those games, boys.

My three stars:

1. Filip Forsberg

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Carey Price

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