Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Drought Is Over! Predators Score 3 to Defeat the Sabres 3-2

The Nashville Predators traveled to First Niagara Center to face the Buffalo Sabres in their fourth consecutive road game, a game in which they were trying to find the back of the net for the first time on this trip.

The first three games were a miserable experience for the Predators, having been outscored 11-0 and dropping three straight.

Carter Hutton gave Pekka Rinne the night off and was outstanding in the first period as the Sabres swarmed the Predators and possessed the puck for long stretches of time in the offensive zone.

Even though the Predators were being badly out shot and out played, they would strike first.

The Predators goal drought would end in the first period as Mike Fisher banged home a rebound past Linus Ullmark to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Craig Smith made it 2-0 one minute into the second period with a blast from the face off circle that caromed off the crossbar and into the net.

Cody Hodgson made it 3-0 off a beautiful pass through the slot from Gabriel Bourque, and suddenly the Predators seemed to have found their scoring touch.

That goal would chase Ullmark and Chad Johnson would come into the net for the Sabres.

Evander Kane scored from just inside the blue line to make it 3-1 on a goal that Hutton definitely should have snared.

The Sabres pulled Johnson for the extra attacker and they scored as Jack Eichel notched his 7th of the season to make it 3-2 with 1:19 remaining in the third period.

A late flurry by the Sabres was not enough and the Predators hung on for a 3-2 win.

Some observations:

  • This game saw several players look across the ice and see some of their old teammates. Paul Gaustad and Cody Hodgson were former Sabres while Cody Franson and David Legwand were once on the Predators roster.
  • Mike Fisher's goal was vintage Predator hockey, get to the net and battle for the rebound. This is an aspect of the Predators game that has been missing recently. That goal was set up by Colin Wilson battling in front of Ullmark and keeping the play alive. The Predators have to get more of this type of play.
  • In this three game losing streak, the Predators have dominated in puck possession and shots but came up short. Tonight, in the first period, the Sabres dominated in puck possession and shots but were losing 1-0. Hockey is sure a funny game.
  • Good to see Fisher and Smith find the net. Both these guys have been in a mini slump and hopefully it will get them going.
  • The Hodgson goal was off a sweet pass from Bourque, but that play was possible because Calle Jarnkrok had rotated to the blue line and did a good job keeping the puck in the zone. Bourque did a great job of gathering in the rebound and getting his head up to spot Hodgson, who more importantly, finished the play.
  • The Predators lost Paul Gaustad late in the second period to an upper body injury and he did not return to the game.
  • The Predators power play has failed them on this road trip and did not look good again tonight. They had 47 seconds of a 5 on 3 and generated no quality scoring chances. This unit showed no movement or sense of purpose when they had an opportunity to really put the Sabres ina  deep hole.
  • Carter Hutton played a mostly strong game, letting in a soft goal by Kane late in the second period. I don't know what it is about Hutton but he is good for allowing an opponent to score from long distance every game, usually on an unscreened shot, as this goal was. Hutton did make some very good saves and generally looked good in net. Out of the net, not so much, as he went almost to the hash marks to play a puck and was flipped head over heels by Marcus Foligno. Hutton was especially sharp in the first period when the Sabres out shot the Predators 11-3.
  • The Predators were out shot 32-20 by the Sabres.
  • Hutton improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Sabres.
  • The Predators did a good job of blocking shots, recording 17 to 5 for the Sabres. 
  • The Predators were 23 of 54 in the face off dot, which contributed to the Sabres huge advantage in puck possession.
 This wasn't a pretty win, but you know what?

It was a win, which this team desperately needed.

And it was good to see them get the monkey off their back and score some goals.

Now they have have to build on this momentum and start stringing together some wins.

My three stars:

1. Mike Fisher

2. Carter Hutton

3. Craig Smith

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